Peccadillo

n. A small and relatively unimportant sin or offense.

This definition was taken from the Oxford American Dictionary.  It is a word whose meaning I always remember, but I would never think of using the word myself, partially because it is such a silly sounding word and far too close to an armadillo.  What would a peccadillo look like would that it were an animal?

Silly might be appropriate however, considering the definition.  A peccadillo is a venial sin, maybe even less; certainly it isnnothing to blow up about.  Maybe the word should sound whimsical.  On the other hand, maybe we shouldn’t be so nonchalant about venial sins, as in a sort of Broken Windows approach to sin.

Here is the interesting thing.  The word was brought to my intention by a New York Times article about Silvio Berlusconi.  “Berlusconi Pleads His Case as Tolerance of His Peccadilloes Wanes,” runs the headline.  Berlusconi, the prime minister of Italy and owner/president of A.C. Milan, has made much news lately for attending 18th birthdays of pretty women and possibly paying women for his company, much to the shagrin of his wife.  When I went to find the article on the Times website, I couldn’t find it under the search of the word peccadillo.  They had removed it from the headline, which now reads “Berlusconi Pleads His Case as Italy’s  Tolerance Wanes.”  Hmm…

The question is, why remove the word? Could it be that some thought it was casting judgment on Berlusconi’s actions as sin? Could it be that others were upset that they were seen only as venial sins?

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One Response to Peccadillo

  1. John Kuhner says:

    As for the armadillo comment, no doubt that baby peccaries should be called peccadilloes. But then again, not having a word at my fingertips, I call baby turkeys “giblets.”
    As far as Berlusconi goes, yes, I think the difference between “venial sins” and “peccadilloes” is that the latter term implies complete triviality, and not everyone agrees that Berlusconi talking about who has the hottest secretary at important E.U. meetings is an entirely trivial failing.

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