Safire ‘On Language’ — Pet peeves and other names for them
today at 8:00 am
One of my favorite entries in William Safire’s Sustaining Book, “On Language,” is the entry about pet peeves. He presents a list of readers’ least favorite words and follows with his own surprising one. Here are my favorite parts:
— “The pet peeve of Helen Landrim of Whiting, N.J., is the disappearing ‘ing’ sound. ‘Whatever has happened to “ing,” as in “going” or “wanting”?’ she asks ‘These words have been almost invariably “gonna” and “wanna.” She’s right” (Safire continues), “and if were gonna make a big deal out of the vanishing ‘g,’ I wanna put in my objection to the ominous ‘Ommina’ (for ‘I’m going to’) and its New York variant “Ongana.” (The book is 40 years old, and I think the vanishin’ is almost finished.)
— “The Unicorn Hunters, a group of linguists at Lake Superior State College in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., are reported to take umbrage (good word, umbrage — from ‘shady’) at the term ‘self-addressed’ — ‘We banned “self-addressed” some time ago, asserts Professor W.T. Rabe, ‘because that implies that the envelope wrote an address on itself.'”
Safire ends the list this way:
— “My own pet peeve is the phrase ‘pet peeve.’ Doesn’t anybody have any other kind of peeve? Alliteration is dandy — as the perpetrator of ‘nattering nabobs of negativism,’ I cannot denigrate alliterators — but can’t we try ‘favorite fury’ or ‘preferred provocation’?
“One of these days, ongana get a dog and name him ‘Peeve,’ so I can introduce him to friends in the ecstasy of exasperation with ‘This is my pet, Peeve.” (There’s no word on whether Safire followed through on this idea.)
I’m going to alternate favorite fury and ecstasy of exasperation for a while and see which feels better.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.
Save me from an ecstasy of exasperation — subscribe today! Type your e-mail address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam-free, and you can opt out at any time.