Source: Oxford Dictionaries
I can’t spend the rest of my life coming into this stinking apartment every ten minutes to pore over the excruciating minutia of every single daily event.
– Elaine Benes, Seinfeld (Season 8, Episode 3 – The Bizarro Jerry)
The first time I heard the word “minutiae” was in an episode of one of my favorite comedy TV series: Seinfeld. After discovering a complete-opposite version of Jerry, Elaine realizes she’s had enough of the original’s superficial way of life and proceeds to criticize their countless trivial conversations (which, hilariously enough, were exactly what made the show a pioneer in its style of comedy). Naturally, the fact that Jerry replies with yet another anecdote about “nothing” serves to prove her point and further add to the humor of the scene.
“Minutiae” (or “minutia”) are the minor and precise details of something. This plural noun comes from the Latin noun minutia, meaning “smallness”. This word, in turn, is derived from the adjective minutus, which means “small”.
One of the few times I recall using this word in a story was in a context similar to that of the above quote, in that it was intended to draw attention to the boring side of social convention. In this case, the character in the scene had just returned home from a party and was enjoying the peace of solitude after being liberated from the “minutia” of conversations in which she had absolutely no interest. I’m accustomed to seeing the word being used with a negative connotation, but I suppose it’s really a matter of preference. However you choose to work it into your writing, remember that the success of your stories may very well lie in the “minutiae” of the narrative! Good luck!
What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?