Our word of the day, pignolo (pih-ño-lo) comes from the word pigna, or pine cone, which in turn is a cousin of the Latin pinea, the feminine of pineus, pine. In Italian, we use it to denote someone who is very precise and meticulous, almost fastidiously so, just the way in English you use the words “pedantic,” “fussy,” but also “rigorous,” “meticulous,” or “scrupulous.” Quando si tratta di lavoro, è veramente pignolo (“when it comes to his job, he’s really rigorous”), but also è così pignolo da risultare insopportabile (“he is so pedantic he becomes unbearable”).
Pignolo is the archaic version of pinolo, or pine nut, but how did we go from those little, tasty – and expensive – nuts to fussy people? Well, to find out we need to look at the pine nuts and the way they fit into the pine cone: they are stuck into it just like King Arthur’s sword in the stone or – and here’s where our pignolo comes into the picture – just like fussy people are stuck into their own ideas and obsession for precision.
Pignolo is quite common in Italian, definitely more than the verb that originated from it, pignoleggiare, which means acting like a pignolo. However, you’re likely to hear the noun pignolaggine (or pignoleria) every now and then, in sentences like il mio capo è conosciuto per la sua pignolaggine (“my boss is known for being very meticulous”).
Last but not least, pignolo is also the name of a famous grape variety from Friuli and of a type of olive tree.
- Ci mette molto a fare i compiti: è veramente pignolo!
- It takes him ages to do his homework, he is very meticulous.
- Quando si tratta di conti, è meglio essere pignoli
- When it comes to bills, better be rigorous.
- Detesto la pignoleria: per me è segno di ignoranza!
- I hate pedantry: I think it’s a sign of ignorance!