persnickety

Not all the greenery in word country is equally easy to tend. One of the fussiest is the persnickety bush. It demands proper water, light, and tending, and must not be overused. It has a delightful flavour, almost lemony, with clear hints of persimmons and snickerdoodles, but if it is overpicked or used too persistently it will surely make you purse your lips.

This bush is a variant plant, a version of pernickety – that quaint and curious word that seems to have sprung from a Scottish source – grown in a tight little alley (a snicket). It is rather prickly, and you would do well to avoid a thicket of it, lest you nick yourself.

Different gardeners do different things with persnickety. Some let it grow as is, though you should be careful not to let anything grow too persnickety. Others prefer to prune, to snip with shears or snap off with snee. Some like to get to what they see as the very heart of it, though it loses some of its more involved flavour. You can see the results in this bush here: the gardener has clipped away some letters – they’re on the ground; are they tenser or resent? Both are part of the character of persnickety. And what is left once those are removed? Just p ick y – ah, picky. A synonym, largely. But no, no, nowhere near the flavour. Bad gardener. One really must do these things just so, you know.

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