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To be twee or not to be twee, that is the question … of this week’s U.K. IQ.

To be "twee" is to be overly dainty, delicate, cute or quaint. You hear the Brits say it a lot, often with a sarcastic or insulting tone.

Twee first appeared in the British vernacular at the beginning of the 20th century, according to www.WorldWideWords.org. The site said it developed from "tweet," a childlike attempt at saying "sweet," or perhaps is a hybrid of the words "tiny" and "wee."

No matter. So now that we know what twee means, what is twee?

Who better to ask than a Brit who talks for a living and loves the word.

"It’s definitely a derogatory term," said Juliet Mayne, a radio talk-show host on Ocean FM in Southampton. "It’s like a knitted tea cozy or an old cottage with checked curtains and matching everything or a mum and daughter with matching outfits. That’s twee."

Despite the examples, there apparently is no twee litmus test. You’ll know twee when you see twee, she said.

Asked why she loves to use the word so much, Mayne responded: "It’s quite a nice sounding word. It doesn’t always sound like an insult, but it is."

— Charlie Reed

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