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Petting Peeves

A petting zoo is usually a cute, cuddly place. But the zoo of pet peeves about language isn’t cuddly at all. It’s filled with creatures captured in the wild of everyday use—misspellings, grammatical solecisms, clichés—and visitors come not to pet them but to voice outrage at their mere existence.

Look—there’s that awful hopefully! Here’s  no problem, you guys! There’s my bad and conversate and graduate college! There’s a complete collection of Lake Superior State University’s annual catch of banished words—double down, job creators, bucket list, guru, yolo and the rest. And look who’s sitting right here in our presence, the big bad historical present!

The zoo of language pet peeves is run by the vast sect known as Prescriptivists. They bring their children to the zoo to teach them to recognize those awful usages and keep away from them. True, there are minor disagreements among the Prescriptivists, some even exempting little less from the feweror of their outrage. But the chief problem at the zoo is the rival Permissivists who sometimes slip into the zoo and feed and pet the very usages Prescriptivists are so stern in denouncing.

Honestly, though, isn’t the menagerie of pet peeves a little boring? Aren’t they the same old, same old year after year, decade after decade?

So I’m calling for Prescriptivist volunteers to come up with new specimens to put on display, ones that have never been imagined before, to give us more opportunity to vent our shock and awe. Just give us your specimens in the comments below, along with (this is important) logical reasons for proscribing them.

To get the collection started, I modestly offer a few new species of my own, words and phrases that deserve to be displayed among the pet peeves and banished from everyday use:

elevator—four exhausting syllables. Why don’t we just use lift, like the British?

pigeon—because it is not a pig and does not last for an eon.

ironic — because it has  nothing to do with iron.

President of the United States—He or she does not preside over the United States. Not even the U.S. Congress. No, just the executive branch. So use the correct title, Chief Executive Officer  of the Executive Branch of the United States government.

And here’s my proudest catch:

The—Biggest cliché and most overused word in English language. Think how much ink and electrons we’d save if we left it out. Headlines do that, and we can read them. Also it’s sexist, two-thirds consisting of he.

OK, Prescriptivists. Are you ready? Let’s bring in those bad boys!

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