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pedantic - vocabulary

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adjective

Ostentatious in one’s learning; characterized by a detailed, often ostentatious, attention to formalisms, especially in teaching.

Here, Nabokov's aristocratic dilettantism is perfect, because he uses it to flick off the Bolsheviks as if they were nothing more than clumsy servants—overzealous, pedantic, too eager. This is moving because we learn, three words after "pedantic" where their pedantry ended up: They shot Osip dead. And this word gains an extra strength from our sense that Nabokov is himself being pedantic at this moment. He is being pedantic for insisting on using the word "pedantic"! His very precision of language is deliciously pedantic. And so Nabokov's sympathetic pedantry vanquishes the murderous pedantry of the Bolsheviks, and, in the space of this sentence, art does truly triumph over history, and style over content.

—James Wood “Discussing Nabokov: Delicious PedantrySlate.com, April 26, 1999

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