split hairs(redirected from splitting hairs)
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To make or focus on trivial or petty details, differences, or distinctions. I'm sorry to split hairs, but your portion of the bill is $25.97, not $25.79. I actually think it was your responsibility, not Dave's, but let's not split hairs about it.
Fig. to quibble; to try to make petty distinctions. They don't have any serious differences. They are just splitting hairs. Don't waste time splitting hairs. Accept it the way it is.
Make trivial distinctions, quibble, as in Let's not split hairs about whose turn it is; I'll close up today and you do it tomorrow. This metaphoric idiom transfers dividing so fine an object as a single hair to other petty divisions. [Second half of 1600s]
If someone splits hairs, they argue about very small details or find very small differences between things which are really very similar. More than half the cases they complained about were not, in fact, on Garzon's list, but let's not split hairs. Don't split hairs. You know what I'm getting at. Note: You can also accuse someone of hair-splitting. We were becoming impatient with hair-splitting over legal technicalities.
split hairsmake small and overfine distinctions.
This expression was first recorded in the late 17th century. Split straws, dating from the 19th century, is a less common version.
split ˈhairs(disapproving) pay too much attention in an argument to differences that are very small and not important: You might think I’m just splitting hairs, but what exactly do you mean by ‘a significant improvement’? ▶ ˈhair-splitting noun
To see or make trivial distinctions; quibble.
split hairs, to
To make petty, unnecessarily fine distinctions. The analogy between splitting so fine a material as a hair and making fine distinctions was drawn by Shakespeare’s time. “I’ll cavil on the ninth part of a hair,” he wrote (Henry IV, Part 1, 3.1). It was probably already a cliché by the time Douglas Jerrold wrote (The Chronicles of Clovernook, 1846), “His keen logic would split hairs as a bill-hook would split logs.”
See also: split