Lexie Kahn and the Fear Factor

What was that clip, clip, clip, clip in the hallway outside my apartment? It could only be Pom-pom, Mrs. Martinez’s Pomeranian. I gasped, realizing that in my dither over the hollyhocks I had dropped the box with the remains of my filet outside the door. I dashed doorward, executing a “Kramer,” my body swinging out with the door. I snatched victory before the little jaws knew what happened, slammed the door and plopped the package into the fridge.

“It’s so loud inside my head/With words that I should have said!” My phone. Who could be calling? “Lexie Kahn. What’s the word?” I answered.

“Lexie, it’s C.J.” A pause. “C.J. Chan.”

“AKA De Sica the Seeker. What can I do for you?” I hoped he didn’t hear my heart thumping. Was it fear or something else I was feeling? This guy was slipperier than stewed okra.

“There’s a show at the Otis College gallery I thought you’d be interested in.” Art is an interest of mine, but we never discussed it. How did he know? “I thought you’d like the name of the show,” he continued, “It’s Meticulosity.”

“That does arouse my curiosity. So does the reason for your invitation. Is this business or pleasure?”

“Pleasure, I hope,” he said, “but I might make you a proposition.”

“Okay,” I said, ignoring the ambiguity of his response. We arranged a time for the next morning.

“I hope you like marshmallows,” he said. Click. The call ended. So he was the one who sent the hollyhocks.

I looked up meticulosity, an old fashioned word now generally replaced by meticulousness. I knew meticulous meant ‘careful and exacting,’ but I was surprised to learn it originally meant ‘fearful, timid,’ and later ‘overcareful about minute details.’ It comes, via Middle French, from classical Latin metīculōsus <metus ‘fear’ + -īculōsus (in perīculōsus ‘perilous’). Seems the Latin word was a blend of ‘fear’ and part of the word for ‘danger.’ Curiouser and curiouser. Should I be scared? I wondered.

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Lexie Kahn: Word Snooper is a blog about words and their origins at WordSnooper.com.
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One Response to Lexie Kahn and the Fear Factor

  1. Pingback: Lexie Kahn and the Origin of Concern and Discern | Lexie Kahn: Word Snooper

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