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I've been watching a lot of Norm Macdonald lately, and inevitably, you get those kind of comments:

RIP Norm - not a good time to lose voices like yours

Which is true, but at the same time, on reading this, I immediately thought: "Is there ever a good time to lose good people?" One of the replies basically said the same thing:

That suggests there is a good time to lose voices like his.

The point here is that I started thinking of a good way to describe this kind of a reply: when a person says a good thing, a kind thing but then you start nitpicking, even if your nitpicking is grounded in logic etc.? ("And he says to me, he says, 'Logic?..'")

Like, how would you preface that? I could only think of these but I'm sure there's a better way:

I don't mean to be nitpicking, but... (basically, even though you are)

Well, I'm getting technical here, but...

Not to bore anyone, but...

I guess 'pedantic' is somewhere near as well...

(Norm would have possibly replied, "That's just a conversation!" Truly, not a good time to lose voices like his)


An edit to clarify my poorly written question :)

  • the behavior I'm talking about is the first part in bold, i.e. when a person (in this case I'm imagining this person to be me) replies to a kind, positive comment in a nitpicking way
  • the prefacing also just seemed natural for me since I imagined having a conversation, so, I would introduce my point like that. Maybe that's just that my English textbooks focused on tying thought together a lot, cohesion and all that
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  • I'm a bit confused. Who would be doing the prefacing? The person saying "Not a good time to lose voices like yours"? Your question is a little bit unclear about which behaviour you mean to describe etc. Mar 28, 2022 at 5:56
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    I'm not familiar with Norm Macdonald, but the comment really means "This is a particularly bad time to lose a voice like his". Mar 28, 2022 at 7:40
  • @SteveBennett, I just imagined how I would interject in a conversation. So, that person is has said this, the first quote, and then I would introduce my point with something like "Well...". The behavior I am interested in is what I highlighted, so, it would be these kind of remarks. Reacting in a nitpicking way when someone says something positive
    – Vladimir
    Mar 28, 2022 at 14:39
  • @KateBunting, Thank you. Yes. Just to clarify: I think I understood that (though now I am starting doubting my understanding). Of course, it's about it being a clearly negative thing. And I think I also did actually get (as Astralbee pointed out) that it is not just about the death, it is also about the aspect that he died in this particular time when his opinion, his ability to say things that many people would not address, etc. (so, yes, his voice).
    – Vladimir
    Mar 28, 2022 at 14:45
  • I think you've taken Kate's comment wrong. The original statement does not say that there is ever a good time. It uses understatement to say that this is a particularly bad time. Along the lines of someone being told that their house has burned down and saying, "Well, that's not good." Aug 3, 2023 at 13:40

2 Answers 2

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'Nitpicking' is a good term to describe someone who picks up on tiny mistakes that most would probably overlook. However, it doesn't necessarily imply that the person is being unfair, just perhaps that they are overly critical. There are many other words and phrases, but I like 'hypercritical', which means much the same but also "unreasonably or unjustly critical; carping; captious".

That said, in your specific case, I feel more that you just missed the point of what was being said. You focused entirely on the death, rather than the timing of it. The person who made the comment clearly felt they had a grander point about voices like Norm's being important, particularly at this time in human history. I don't think you would have criticised the comment in the way that you did if you had grasped the greater meaning. One might also call this behaviour 'blinkered', meaning they have a specific focus and are unaware of other, wider issues or connotations.

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    Thank you. 'Hypercritical' seems like a good fit. As for missing the point... well, I feel really awkward now with several people pointing this out. My understanding of the comment actually is that 'now' did not mean 'some short interval around his death' but the age we're living in, in other words, 'the times', the tumultuous times etc. Even in this case, I think, it's fair to say that, again, if we start nitpicking, there is no period in history when the death of a good person could be a good thing.
    – Vladimir
    Mar 28, 2022 at 14:36
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    @Vladimir I feel bad for pointing it out! But you made yourself the example in your question! And if it makes you feel better, I said this because I don't believe you had bad intentions by being picky. You were just thinking on different lines. A hypercritical person deliberately looks to find fault.
    – Astralbee
    Mar 28, 2022 at 19:24
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    Thank you. It did make me feel better, actually :)
    – Vladimir
    Mar 29, 2022 at 11:37
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An adjective we often use to describe this behavior is "contrary".

"Why are you being so needlessly contrary?"

It has the sense of questioning the described person's motivation - they are perhaps "disagreeing only because one wants to disagree".

You might say, "I hate to be contrary, but, I feel that..."

A verb phrase we use to describe this behavior is "splitting hairs". This always implies that the disagreement was unnecessary, and is often used as a retort. And it is especially appropriate if the speaker is pointing out a difference between two cases.

"That suggests there is a good time to lose voices like his, so there must be a better way to say it."

"As Kate mentioned in her comment above, the speaker just meant it's a particularly bad time. You're just splitting hairs!"

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