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In George Orwell's novel 1984, Part one, Chapter IV, there is a sentence:

In the corresponding cubicle on the other side a small, precise-looking, dark-chinned man named Tillotson was working steadily away.

I've looked up 'precise' in dictionaries, but still cannot understand what a precise-looking man is like. Can you guys help?

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This reminds me of T S Eliot’s self-mockery in his parody of Edward Lear: 'How unpleasant to meet Mr. Eliot! / With his features of clerical cut, / And his brow so grim / And his mouth so prim / And his conversation, so nicely / Restricted to What Precisely / And If and Perhaps and But.' –  Barrie England Sep 20 '11 at 8:39
    
Reminds me of a bizarre exchange from Dune: "The, hm-m-m-m, precise young man, ah, my... hm-m-m-m... dear?" The Count glanced at the Baron. "My dear Baron, you say you've spoken of us to this precise young man? What did you say?"..."you come upon such, mm-m-m, preciseness so rarely" –  JeffSahol Sep 21 '11 at 2:47

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

He is "precise-looking" in the sense that he has been precise in every step of how he presents himself -- his hair, his skin, his clothes. You won't find lazily-brushed hair on him.

Just imagine a person like that sitting with short, thoroughly brushed hair, in a nice dress shirt tucked in with a belt and loafers, sitting with a half-frown on their face as they faithfully do their work. That's the kind of image that Orwell is conjuring up.

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I like the image you conjured in my mind! +1 –  Thursagen Sep 20 '11 at 9:35

I don't know that there is a formal definition for precise-looking, but in a character development it may mean precise-acting or fastidious as much as the way he looks. I would consider him a bit fastidious, well groomed, with conservative features and dress. In this case, I think each reader might have a unique picture of the man.

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