New York Times book-reviewer Michiko Kakutani is known for her frequent (some might say too frequent) use of the verb limn. Far more frequent is her use of the adjective messy. In February 2011 I wrote a post that tracked Kakutani’s use of messy from 1979 to 2010, from drizzle to steady rain to downpour and back to drizzle. The word appeared just once in 2011 and once more in 2012. The year 2012 also brought a conspicuously inappropriate use of the noun mess. And now messy is back. From a review of NoViolet Bulawayo’s novel We Need New Names:
Once she is a teenager, she quickly adopts the habits of friends from school, even if she doesn’t exactly care for them — listening to Rihanna, trying on armfuls of clothing at the mall (and leaving them in huge messy piles in the dressing room) and watching pornography online.Here messy seems to function like a tic: given the context, is there really a difference between piles of clothes and messy piles of clothes? If one leave clothes in huge piles, is neatness ever involved?
[Since 2011 and 2012 brought one messy each, it’s reasonable to speculate that this review might offer the only 2013 sighting.]