Don’t Pet My Peeves

Before anyone gets the bright idea that this is a nicely gift-wrapped manual for how to get under my skin, I will preface this post with a declaration that not all of these little peculiarities are my own. I have gleaned from conversations with friends and colleagues a few of the little things that really bug them, and I’ve added some of my own. As it is, I believe it presents an interesting collection of quirks that range in response from rolled eyes to grinding teeth. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’m sure there are a good many others that could be added, but to capture them all might break the internet.

Pet peeves are those little things that bother us just enough to irritate, but never so much as to excite rage. Generally, they are insignificant behaviors or aspects of life that other people around us may not even notice, or at the very least find perfectly acceptable. The first use of the term seems to have originated in the turn of the last century. It allegedly is derived from the word peevish or annoyed. The point being that whatever the occurrence in question, the response was less explosive than seething.

And on with the show…

1. The “correct” way to hang toilet paper:

So, I’ve seen this over and over. There are polls and memes and you-name-it all over the internet debating the right or wrong way to hang the toilet paper roll on the holder. By this, of course, we are talking about whether the loose end goes over the top and comes to the front or if it goes back towards the wall and pulls from underneath the roll.

Seriously, people. I will admit that my preference has always been the towards-the-front application, but I strongly suspect that was instilled by my mother who always went the extra step of folding the end into a neat little triangle before guests arrived (don’t even ask). Truth be told, I don’t very well understand getting all that torqued over the perspective of the loose end of something with which I am going to wipe my bum. Generally, I am just thrilled when people actually think to put a new roll on the holder when the old one is spent.

2. I have an ideal. Axe me something about nucular strategery, irregardless of the previous topic, ekcetera:

We’ve all heard them, right? Those colloquial pronunciations that don’t quite match the spelling or Oxfordian English presentation of the vernacular. People will generally notice if it is a public figure making a general ass of himself or herself before the camera lens of publicity, especially if it also makes said individual look to have the verbal IQ of a mollusk. For the most part, however, people will usually overlook the occasional misquoted, poorly articulated presentation of the SAT wordlist. I do have to say, that there is some small nerve in my spinal cord that jumps every time people put that extra consonant on the word “idea” to make the concept into the superlative or place a ‘k’ in the Latin word to indicate “and so on”. It is worse when the speaker is supposed to be not only educated but also holds a professional role of some prominence and representative of my own field, institution, or position. While, I am aware that I may be the only person hearing it; it does make me concerned that the audience will tar me with the same brush of incompetence that could be construed by their ignorance of the English language (even if it is just a frequently used Latin term).

3. The recently much-abused Oxford comma:

This particular grammatical functionary has received way more attention in the “interwebs” of late than I ever would have suspected possible. For those who might not even understand the term to which I refer, the Oxford or serial comma is used when listing more than two items in a phrase or sentence. I found out in the process of editing my dissertation that this particular particle of punctuation is now considered optional. Um… optional? Really? When I was but a wee lass learning to actually compose sentences on paper (yes, sometime around the invention of written language, I know), we were taught about things like subjects, predicates, nouns, and verbs… (see what I did there?) AND the comma in a serial list of objects, people, entities, and ideas was always used before the conjunction (and, or, nor, but, etc.). This was so that you didn’t group the last two items in the list as one entity.

However, this small, insignificant punctuation mark has apparently gone the way of the dodo and is now considered unnecessary. It came as a complete shock to me, I can tell you. However, this seems to be the way of the new world in which we live. I read an article just yesterday about the new punctuation and how our use of texting and social media has changed how we punctuate due to implied emotional content. This goes back to my “Antisocial Media” article and some of the discussions I have had recently about what technology has done to our language and learning. I caution my readers (all three of you now, I think) not to give into this new lackadaisical application of the traditional grammatical forms. Punctuation is important, people! Just think:

It’s time to eat Grandma! vs It’s time to eat, Grandma!

Punctuation saves lives.

4. BTW, txt b4 omw:

While the above is probably an exaggeration, one of the things that appalls me in our current society is the all too frequent use of the “text speak” in what I might consider formal publications. Now, I am not suggesting that the editors of all the scholarly journals on the planet have suddenly decided to take a powder and leave off their duties as grammar police and guardians of comprehensive communication. I have not yet found any glaring incidents of seeing the ridiculous acronyms and abbreviations used for the character and time limited formats of the text environment; BUT sadly, I have seen too many of these used in emails, sometimes those of an alleged professional nature. This is truly a travesty in a world of informality that we cannot at least keep some professionalism with regards, say… formal memorandum sent to an entire department or company sector, correspondents between academic department heads, emails to professional colleagues, or official event fliers in the workplace. I know you are probably thinking, “She’s exaggerating again. Surely professionals wouldn’t do that!” Sorry… I’ve seen it. What people fail to consider (at least those used to communicating in that immediately gratifying way of technology and the speed of electronic transfer) is that when you send something across the internet, there is the very distinct possibility that the document (albeit brief) has the potential longevity to be there in perpetuity and be displayed to an entirely different audience than originally intended. I have found some of them truly amusing, in part because I know that the writer is not nearly as unprofessional as they appear in print. However, to the potential unknown reader, what might the impression be? I can appreciate the convenience of the acronym and abbreviation. I can even support the use of some of these expressions as an almost secret code-like communication, but for the love of all that is sacred to your dignity, please use language in its full beauty when composing communication that might be seen by a broader audience or presented as professional correspondence.

5. Uggs:

Let’s depart for a moment from the intellectual and academic arguments of things that make one peevish. Instead we shall briefly delve into the realm of fashion.

People who know me would tell you, I am not a fashionista, and I am not one to sacrifice comfort or large portions of my bank balance for the latest trends. That being said, the fashion in footwear called Uggs just perplexes me. I can only assume that the name comes from the word ugly. As far as I can tell, these foot coverings were created to look like something that should never leave the house and were designed with the intent to make the leg look as short and wide as possible. Apparently, the origin of these heinous things is actually Australia, where they were actually designed to keep the feet of surfers warm when out of the water. I can see how they might actually be effective in that capacity. I understand that they are warm and comfortable. My problem is that they have become the height of fashion and they can cost as much as $200. If I spend a couple of Benjamins on a set of footwear, they better make me look like the winner of America’s Top Model. Instead, what I generally see is young girls wearing these hideous things on their feet accompanying a miniskirt or leggings and a long sweater or possibly even skinny jeans (and that is a whole other discourse). The effect is incredible. Even if said gal was remarkably well-formed and legs that went from the ground to the sky, what this choice of wardrobe does is cut her off horizontally to produce a wider and shorter silhouette. Why would someone want to do this? Anyhow, out of curiosity, I looked up ugg boots to see what it was all about and found something I found both humorous and interesting:

THE Canadian Inuit call them mukluks, the Native American Indians call them moccasins, and here in Australia we just call them uggies — but no matter what you call them, no matter what part of the world you come from, the fur or wool-lined soft-leather winter boot will always be associated with daggy fashion sense, bogan behaviour, and the outer suburbs.” (Katz, 2006)

Now, anyone need a translation? Daggy and bogan are Australian slang terms that mean unfashionable, ugly, what we Stateside folk might call “the people of Walmart” (no offense to people who just choose to shop from that entity). The author actually states that the ugliest boots on the planet are warm and comfortable, but fashionable… not so much.

6. Uncomfortable non-silence:

Ever met those people who just seem completely unable to stand silence? I expect that going to a library would be pure torture for them. I don’t particularly mind the traditional chatterbox. They are lively people with a lot on their minds and have no apparent internal monologue as they tend to have a running commentary on everything that comes to their notice. It can be entertaining. It is not really these types that are the focus of disapprobation. Instead, I refer you to the random (and sometimes not so random) individuals who in an atmosphere of conversational lull have to fill the lack of speech, to ease their own discomfort, with a plethora of banalities that serve no purpose save to make noise.

Sitting with silence is not always easy. It is one of the most difficult skills that my own profession needs to cultivate before embarking on the path of providing counsel to those in need. I have found myself feeling a bit discomfited by the client who sits for a half-hour span without so much as a word spoken aloud. Sometimes, those are the most revealing and healing moments, however, and I have found my own Herculean effort to remain silent rewarded surprisingly by clients who have said that having a “calm, safe space” was the best therapy they have ever had.

7. Autocorrect hell:

The advent of the autocorrect function for most people have saved time and provided clarity of commonly used verbiage. On the flip side of that argument, I have seen some of the most ridiculous gaffs and blunders created by my own phone that assumes that it knows better than I what it was I was trying to impart. I am certain that you all have enjoyed some of the more spectacular failures of the autocorrect function. Personally, I have spent inordinate amounts of time perusing the damnyouautocorrect site and laughing uproariously at some of the unintended hilarity there.

That being said, I get somewhat aggravated when I am trying to type something in my text frame (or other electronic media) and the suggested words available are not even related to what I was going to say. Combined with the autopopulate feature, it usually takes twice the normal amount of time spent backing up and retyping my original word. Sometimes, I am genuinely baffled by the suggestions. At other times, I want to hurl the phone sharply against the most convenient hard surface because it will not accept that perhaps I know what I am saying and continues trying to convince me of my error by inserting the wrong word over, and over, and over again. Too many of us have become reliant upon our spellcheck and autocorrect for everything from spelling to punctuation and grammar. Sadly, these marvels of modern technology are not perfection and will sometimes substitute extraordinary things into our typed correspondence. So, my public service advisory for this item would be to always proof read rather than rely upon your technology to represent your thoughts in the way you intended.

And last one, for now…

8. The thing that does the thing with the thing:

We’ve all been there; that moment when someone asks you something believing you to be the source of knowledge on which they could rely, and you draw a beautiful blank from your internal repository of related facts on the topic of your supposed expertise. I admit, not gladly but truthfully, that I am ignorant of a good many subjects in this big, wide world in which we live. I get accused of being a know-it-all on occasion, but the more accurate assessment would be that I know just enough to be dangerous about too many things. I am Jill of all trades and master of not-so-much. I’ve always been curious. Hearing a smattering of conversation about something that I’ve never heard before will usually provoke me to look up anything I can find on the topic for my own edification. This way lays the evil of the Wikipedia rabbit hole and other such sources. It tends to make me annoying in a game of Trivial Pursuit and probably even more so in social conversations that range an extensive breadth of topics. I cannot, therefore, be terribly irritated by others of my ilk that have the same general bent about what used to be called “general knowledge” in a different academic age. There are the people out there, though, that don’t fall into the same category. In fact, these folk are so common that they have been canonized frequently in various entertainment genres. Think for a moment (those of you who remember) of Cliff Clavin, played by John Ratzenberger or of the seagull friend of Ariel, Scuttle, played by Buddy Hackett. These poor souls rely on and take pride in their reputations as the sagely sources of knowledge. The humor comes in when they don’t have all the verifiable facts and confabulate, sometimes even to the extent of creating new words to describe, explain, and elucidate their expertise in all things. We laugh at these caricatures of people that exist out in the real world, but when it comes to the ones we actually meet or experience in the course of our lives, it’s different. Nothing is more frustrating, or embarrassing, than having something explained (say a technical problem with some sort of technology at work) by someone who allegedly gets paid for knowing the problem only to be laughed at by those with real knowledge when you repeat what you were told. As difficult as it is to admit, sometimes it truly is better to admit you do not know something and appear ignorant than to blather on in a sea of confabulation to mislead others and appear an even larger jackass than would have been the case with acknowledgment of ignorance.

And that concludes the list for now. I am sure there are some other entertaining peeves out there for people to share. Be my guest. Some of them are amusing to others, though annoying to us. I dare say I can commiserate with a few of your own submissions, if not more. The point is, these are insignificant blips in the course of our daily lives, probably not even worthy of concern; but perhaps, if we avoid committing some of them ourselves, we can make someone’s life a little less annoying by not petting their peeves.

Katz, D. (2006). The uggly side of life. Retrieved from http://www.theage.com.au/news/danny-katz/the-uggly-side-of-life/2006/09/27/1159337216912.html

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