I came across the unfamiliar use of the word “unpick” in an online article of The Economists recently. Â The article attempts to correct erroneous reports by some media outlets, including The Economist, that the French government, thatÂ always seems zealous to curb the intrusion of the workplace on its citizens, was attempting to restrict workers fromÂ checking email after businessÂ hours. Unpicked was used in this context.
Needless to say, theÂ French mediaÂ unpicked the foreign reports with a mix of bafflement and indignation, leading to much grumbling on Twitter and finally to Ms Lemaire’s corrective tweet
From what scant information I could find online,Â “unpick”Â is (perhaps) an English translation of a French expression. It is new to me and I can find no clear explanation online. Can someone provide a clarification of the word used in this context? Â
Welcome, Michael. I was a bit baffled by the use of unpicked as you were. I read the French with little expectation of finding any unfamiliar French expression, and with the knowledge that the French, unlike Americans, are loath to make up words. Indeed, I saw no clues in the French. I looked at several online dictionaries, and came up with a likely possibility. There is an obscure meaning of the verb unpick that is to analyze or dissect. I think that might be the intent in this context.
Not from French. Â It is Â a metaphoric derivation from the common usage with dress making: Â to unravel needleworks for repair.
The usage for to analyze/decipher literatures seems too rare for how apt the metaphor is. Â There is this one:
( Â Classworks – Literacy Year 6 – Paula Ross Â 2003 Â ) Explain that in this unit the children will compare poems on the theme of ‘The Sea’, and look critically at particular poets’ work and unpick the meaning of poems. They will use this knowledge to compose their own poems …
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