I am pretty sure that the title alone is enough to elicit an audible groan from many of you and a hurried search for pen and paper. You’re not alone! Everyone has pet peeves, some more than others. When I sat down to write this, I wondered whether or not as one ages the number of pet peeves one has increases. My first inclination was that it might be due to the inherent “crankiness” that tends to coincide with the golden years, but upon further reflection I merely chalked it up to the longer you’ve been around, the more stupid shit you’ve seen!
The phrase itself has a long history and is rather intriguing when you consider that the word “pet” usually refers to something you adore, cherish, and love, but couple it with the word “peeve” and those three words revert to, abhor, detest, and hate. The word itself derives from the much older word “peevish” (circa 15th C) and by the 20th century we had the word peeve as a verb and soon after that as a noun, with the first pairing of the two words around 1916 when Ford auto owners listed “cranking a cold motor” as a pet peeve.
It is very fitting that the first pet peeve is tied to an automobile, as there are many tied to cars and driving: Driving too slowly in the passing lane, not using turn signals, talking, or texting while driving, to name just a few. There are so many different kinds of pet peeves one could probably come up with categories for them! My aim here is to address two particular and very different pet peeves that make my skin crawl, but before I get to those here is a sampling of some of the ones I came up with when thinking about this topic – it is by no means an exhaustive list: Passwords, crushed chips in a new bag, not covering your mouth when you cough, people not knowing how to go through airport security, loud music on earbuds, substituting “no worries,” “no problem,” and “uh-huh” for thank-you, slurping on a straw when there is clearly nothing left in the glass, people who are always late, and getting gum on the bottom of your shoe. Has your blood reached the boiling point yet? Good, now you’re ready.
The first of my two is directly related to my former career as a teacher/professor and the aphorism attributed to Mark Twain (although there are many phrases attributed to him that are suspect): “Never use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent one will do.” Now I fully realize that there are those out there with elevated vocabularies that may balk at this notion, and I agree that in certain types of writing a well-placed bon mot or three is perfectly acceptable. Nor am I suggesting that one needs to use the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) method of writing, but there is a great deal of room for something in between superfluous, sumptuous, verbiage (big words!) and the simplistic. Although I am no longer teaching, I do a great deal of reading, and every once in awhile, I come across an author who seems to push the limits of the acceptable bon mot rule. One in particular, whose books I love for their biting sarcasm, humour, and poignancy, is guilty of littering his pages with these words. Just for fun, the last time I read one of his books I jotted down words that I felt could have easily been replaced with, well, fifty-cent ones. I recorded 34 of them in 20 chapters. Here is a sampling: Exgurgitating, ululant, mythogenesis, vituperative, somnambulants, risible, lugubrious, blancmange, zygomatic, pellucidly, pertinacity, perfervid, satyagraha, homunculus, perfidious, myrmidons, and rictus. If you had to look up any or all of these, I am sure you’re not alone!
The second concerns people who refuse to return their shopping carts to the designated cart return racks after loading their vehicles (cars). The worst are those who leave them in a way that means you have to move them to get into or move your car. Now, this happens all over this country and I’m sure in other parts of the world, and it is done by both men and women. In Los Angeles, where I now live, it looks like this. Many of the men I’ve witnessed doing the deed are usually between 35-45, buffed, wearing a Gold’s Gym t-shirt, and shorts. They are pushing their cart towards their Porsche and yelling into their cell phone completely oblivious to what is going on around them. The women, more often than not, are in leggings, tank top, and a terry cloth headband. They are pushing their carts across the parking lot with a small yappy dog under one arm, a yoga mat under the other and are yelling at their cell phones, otherwise known as multitasking. They have not eaten bread since they were pre teens, and they are throwing their bags of organic groceries into the back of a Land Rover. Of course, the irony here is that these “fit” people going to gyms and yoga classes can’t walk the extra fifty feet to return a cart! I have to stop now and meditate before my head explodes!
Los Angeles 2022