The term nitpick is used today to describe someone who is overly critical or excessively concerned with accuracy. The etymology of the word dates back to the 15th century. The term nitpick originally referred to the time-consuming and meticulous task of removing nits, or eggs laid by head lice, from one’s hair as each individual hair had to be inspected for possible infestation. This task was portrayed by Dutch artist Pieter De Hooch in a 1658 painting named A Mother Delousing Her Child’s Hair, Known as A Mother's Duty.”1 As part of the Dutch Golden Age of painting, it aimed to depict quiet domestic scenes and provide a glimpse of day-to-day life. Nearly a century later, poet Robert Burns penned To a Louse in 1785 after seeing head lice on a lady’s bonnet at church. In the poem, he is appalled that a lowly creature would inhabit such a beautiful host.
Kailas A. To Nitpick. JAMA Dermatol. 2018;154(1):59. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.4484
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