Vocab from Small Great Things: Specious

Small Great Things

My book club is reading Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult this month, and so far, it’s a fantastic read.  Ruth, a black nurse working in a labor and delivery ward, is assigned to care for a baby whose parents are white supremacists.  When the baby’s parents complain, Ruth’s supervisor tells Ruth not to care for or even touch the baby.  However, during a hectic shift, when all the other nurses are busy, the baby boy goes into cardiac arrest.

Tragedy strikes, followed closely by litigation. Picoult does a great job of presenting the back story for each character and how their experiences shape their views. She handles the complicated and sensitive issue of race relations with beautiful language and thoughtful insights. I’m looking forward to spending more time with this book. (Which I must, as I’m supposed to have it read by next Tuesday!  I might have to indulge in something called “Reading during the day”.  What a treat!)

Last night, I came across a new word in an exchange of dialogue between one of the lead characters, a public defender, and her mother.

You know when you say things like that it makes me want to get a prescription for Xanax,” my mother sighs.  “I thought that you were going to start looking for a real job when Violet went to school.”

“A, I do have a real job, and B, you’re already taking Xanax, so that’s a specious threat.”

I had to take a trip to Merriam Webster to learn what specious means.

Specious \ˈspē-shəs\ adjective from  Latin speciosus, meaning “beautiful” or “plausible,” and Middle English “visually pleasing”; around the 17th century, specious began to suggest a superficial or deceptive attractiveness

  • having deceptive attraction or allure
  • having a false look of truth or genuineness

Word Nerd Workout

Don’t forget to visit Kathy at Bermuda Onion for the WWW meme!

You could use specious to describe a sketchy argument or reasoning that does not stand up to questioning.  Can you think of a synonym for specious? Mine is “misleading”.

If you like learning about new words, visit Bermuda Onion’s Wondrous Words Wednesday meme.

Thanks for getting nerdy with me!








Julia Tomiak
I believe in the power of words to improve our lives, and I help people find interesting words to read. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+. Member of SCBWI and Wordsmithstudio.org.


  1. The first synonym that popped into my head was “bogus”. Can you tell I spend a lot of time with Millennials? Probably illogical or invalid would be better coming from a great grandmother! Thanks for the “new word”!

  2. If I’d seen that, I would have thought it was a typo. As far as synonyms go, the first thing that popped into my head was deceptive but I see that’s part of the definition so I’m going with inaccurate.

  3. One of the book clubs I belong to will be reading and discussing this book in October. I am intrigued by the plot description although the other members are huge fans of the author and will read and love anything she writes. I would have been stuck on specious too so thanks for looking it up for me.

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