Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pet Peeves

Like most people, I have a few pet peeves. Pet peeves are interesting because they tell you something about a person. For example, as a former editor I have several “English language” pet peeves. Including—

#1. I saw this headline recently: “Mrs. Jessica Timberlake Steps Out as a Newlywed.” But she didn’t. I’m certain of it. However, Mrs. Justin Timberlake may have. Mrs. Jessica Timberlake is married to Jessica Timberlake, and her first name might be Claire or Suzy or something, but it’s not Jessica (I mean, I guess it could be, but you get my point.) If you want to reference the bride’s first name in a case like this, you’d say “Ms. Jessica Timberlake.” It’s not that hard. Come on.

#2. I know I’ve lost the battle on this, but the past tense of “sneak” is “sneaked,” people. “Snuck” is not a word (at least it didn’t use to be). Yes, language evolves, and I can appreciate that process, but “snuck” is a darn ugly-sounding word. “Sneaked” is so much better, and therefore I think it should be allowed to resume its rightful place next to “sneak.” That’s all I’m saying.

The businessman sneaked a look over his cubical.
Who is he avoiding? His boss? His girlfriend? The CIA?
Whatever, we wish him well in his clandestine endeavors.
#3. If there’s one linguistic convention that drives me batty, it’s the overuse of the word “literal.” The woman who was mugged and is now recounting that harrowing experience for the news reporter may say she was “literally scared to death,” but um, no she wasn’t. (I feel kind of bad about pointing this out, because the poor woman has already been victimized once, and here I am picking on her again, but it’s irritating, you know?)

And just for the record (#4  and #5) if someone has completely turned his life around, he’s done a 180 not a 360, and there is no such word as “irregardless.”

Another pet peeve, completely unrelated to the English language is #6 rudeness and its cousin, bad customer service. I hate it when I’m having purchases rung up and the cashier is more interested in her telephone conversation or the conversation she’s having with her coworker than in completing my transaction efficiently. I know she may not be thrilled to death with her job, but could she do it anyway? Please?

#7. Lastly, I can’t stand a hard soft pretzel. Philadelphia is known for its soft pretzels, but not all soft pretzels are created equal. I’ve gotten into the habit of requesting “squishy pretzels that aren’t too dark” (and you wouldn’t believe the angst it causes me to ask for a “light-colored pretzel,”) but I can’t stand dark hard pretzels from the soft pretzel vendor!

What about you? What are your pet peeves? 

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