I understand that the word “precious” in the following quote of Maureen Dowd’s article “Heart of Darkness” (NYT, March 20) literally means “2. valuable or important and not to be wasted” as defined in OALD:
Congressman Jones read an e-mail from a former boss of General Allen’s, giving the congressman this unvarnished assessment: “Attempting to find a true military and political answer to the problems in Afghanistan would take decades. Would drain our nation of precious resources, with the most precious being our sons and daughters. Simply put, the United States cannot solve the Afghan problem, no matter how brave and determined our troops are.
But I didn’t know “precious” has another meaning as defined in OALD: 5. (disapproving, people and their behavior) very formal, exaggerated and not natural, and Readers English Dictionary: 2.(colloquial) terrible, almost worthless, until I was told by my respected forum mate a few days ago.
Being encouraged by his suggestion for me to “ask another question if I’m not sure of what he means by describing his input as “precious” is actually rather “precious” phrasing, I would like to ask:
What is an example of “precious” being used as “disapproving” or sarcastic way (as neither OALD nor CALD provides examples)?
Is there an easy way to discern the instance “precious” being used as “disapproving” from the case being used in the sense of genuine “great value” as used in the above quote other than judging from the context?