English writers have been associating spines with things that are difficult to take since at least 1586, when the English dramatist Thomas Kyd used the word spiny to describe his "cares." "Spinous" took on its figurative use in 1638, when the phrase "spinous criticisms" appeared. "Thorny explications" followed shortly after that, in 1653. Emily Dickinson gets the credit for giving the word prickly its "troublesome" sense. In her 1862 poem that begins "The Child's faith is new," she wrote, "To hold mistaken / His pretty estimates / Of Prickly Things."
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