Punctilious, an adjective: showing great attention to detail or correct behavior : he was punctilious in providing every convenience for his guests. Punctilio is the noun…a fine or petty point of conduct or procedure.
I can see why this word appeals to me even though it’s rarely used. It has such a pompous sound that makes me hear George Plimpton or perhaps Napoleon utter it. I think if anyone said something like, “Susannah’s punctilio was so enforced that she made me want to jump out the window,” then it might be appreciated.
Connecticut should name a town Punctilio, or maybe my hometown could have a Punctilio Place or Drive. A thought.
I always think of it as… manners way over the top…like when you read about dinner parties where there’s a waiter behind the chair of every guest. It’s also a word one associates with a time long gone when life was much more formal.
It’s origin comes from the mid 17th century from the French pointilleux or pointille. In Italian it’s puntiglio. I does have a nice ring in all three languages.
Words can really stop you in your tracks especially their synonyms, or sister syntax, as a writing teacher I had liked to call them. Syntax is the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences.
Punctilio’s next of kin are many: manners, etiquette, correct behavior and civility. Social graces, good form, gentility, decorum…protocol, politeness, propriety, Ps and Qs.
Accepted behavior, formalities, niceties, rules of conduct, courtesy, custom, convention, and politesse (a personal favorite).
It gives me a boner, as they say, reading all of these lined up like little lettered cadets. I am then reminded of diction: the choice and use of words and phrases in speech or writing along with the style of enunciation in speaking or singing. From there we have articulation, elocution, delivery and speech. Inflection, locution, pronunciation and pith.
And there’s more…intonation, usage, language and turn of phrase. Vocabulary, vernacular, terminology along with the art of expression.
Are we all coming our brains out? All writers love words, this I know. When we’re in the throes of a fine flowing paragraph it’s like white water rafting as sentences seamlessly sail onto the page.
When I’m reading and a word throws me that one-two punch when you think, wow, how come you don’t hear billet-doux anymore (French for sweet note)? Or languorous (pleasantly tired), lugubrious (gloomy), laborious (requiring much effort) and lithe (graceful).
Imagine a world without slang where everyone spoke artfully like we all lived in an era when it mattered.
Of course saying fuck twenty times a day would then be out of the question.
I’ll admit, that would be a deal breaker for me, unless of course I said it so punctiliously it would unanimously make the cut.