This is what comes up when you search quibble on Getty.
This is what comes up when you search 'quibble' on Getty. iStock / Getty Images Plus

When people use the noun "quibble"—which is not often enough, in my view, because it's a very cute word—they almost always modify it with "minor." This construction is almost as inevitable as that maddening headline standby, "brutally murdered." (Has anyone ever been tenderly murdered?) What we have here, gentle reader, is a redundancy; a quibble is by Merriam-Webster's definition, "a minor objection or criticism." This misuse follows in the ignominious tradition of other solecisms such as "free gift," "added bonus," and "past history." (Read more about those kinds of linguistic felonies here, masochist.)

So, yeah, I have a quibble with "minor quibble." True, we have more urgent problems in the world, but zoom out from this seemingly inconsequential error to the macroscopic perspective: the erosion of precise spoken and written language ultimately leads to the kind of sloppy thinking that manifests a world in which Betsy DeVos is Secretary of Education and millions of people take Sean Hannity seriously. Grammatical mishaps are like those seemingly innocuous precancerous moles that, if not taken seriously, can develop into melanoma. This post is a biopsy.

Support The Stranger