Saturday, November 24, 2012

A captious sort of day

I made the acquaintance of a new word yesterday. At least I don't recall meeting it before. It caught my attention when I was reading John O'Hara's The Lockwood Concern.
"I thought I'd say something to get you into a different mood. You've been very captious since you got here, and I don't enjoy that."
"I'm very sorry, Geraldine."
The Kindle's built-in dictionary defines captious as "tending to find fault or raise petty objections".

Captious cat offers a bit more:

1. apt to notice and make much of trivial faults or defects; faultfinding; difficult to please.
2. proceeding from a faultfinding or caviling disposition, example: He could never praise without adding a captious remark.

What a useful word! I am often captious, and I'd much rather admit to it than to being nitpicky, hypercritical or judgemental.

I like captious. It's a practical and unpretentious word. It seems unbelievable that I'd never seen it before yesterday afternoon, or at least had never noticed it before. Then last night, I was reading Helen Hoover Santmyer's ...And the Ladies of the Club, and would you look...!
Anne, who was in a captious mood that fall, thought, "Another body to act as librarian-for-a-day!" Mrs. Beattie had never volunteered for that chore, but now it would be a responsibility. 
Is this a dazzling coincidence, or is captious a quite commonly used word that I've somehow managed never to notice all these years?  After two meetings in a day, I'm not likely to forget it.

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