Safire 'On Language' -- Pet peeves and other names for them

Safire 'On Language' -- Pet peeves and other names for them

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 we’re 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.

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  • Droppin the gs was noted with Bruce Rauner, but somehow "gonna" has become the most used term in the Sun-Times. I doubt that that many speakers to them are that casual, but, in any event, they could clean it up in the print (including online) editions.

    The misuse of the week was Rob Sneed on WGN9 saying that the remove Columbus statutes protesters were speaking their truth while the pro police demonstrators were speaking their truth. There may be differing opinions or positions, but I thought there was only one truth. BTW, that truth doesn't include retweeted false hydroxychloroquine claims.

    On personal pet peeves, I might have previously mentioned weather forecasts starting with "yah" and ads for "how do you fight for the compensation you deserve," especially where most of those are "shooting fish in a barrel" cases where there is a fund resulting from bankruptcy litigation or a settlement.:

  • Thank you, Jack. I share an ecstasy of exasperation over the so-called plural truth. It is my opinion, not my truth, that great modern painting ended with Edward Hopper, for example. But it is true that many more recent paintings have joined Hopper's "Nighthawks" in the Art Institute, even though my opinion is that few of them are anywhere near as well done. The truth is that the building holds the paintings. Ranking them is opinion. (I feel a Words Worth Defending post coming on -- and also a headache.)

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    I'm from Iowa and I've been saying ongana all my life. It's not just a NY thing.

  • In reply to pwlsax:

    Thank you for your insight. I'm glad you stopped by.

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