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“PET” PEEVES

I was asked recently what some of my pet peeves were. Being a linguist, I looked up the standard definition of the phrase and found that it is “something that a particular person finds especially annoying.” That meaning seems like an oxymoron because a pet is something a person really likes to have around, although you don’t have the same fondness for a peeve because it makes you annoyed. But why should I be annoyed at something I would like as a “pet”? The idiom and its etymology got me thinking and I decided I might need to contrast the idea of a pet--an animal that is domesticated--with one that is wild.

I suppose that when an animal is domesticated you can have it living with you in your house. Some people have snakes and spiders, even pigs and parrots, that live with them. But the usual domesticated animals in people’s houses are dogs and cats. The sheep and donkeys, goats and horses are kept outside or in the barn and even the parrot or hamster is normally expected to stay in its cage. You can go to the barn and pet undomesticated animals, but you probably don’t want them wandering around in your kitchen or bedroom. Given time and determination, it is possible to domesticate animals. For example, we read in James 3.7 that people can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but that no one can tame the tongue. Nevertheless, taming a scorpion or a spider monkey to live in your house seems a little difficult and farfetched. Most people don’t want them in their house and would prefer them in the zoo.

I will start out with my “pet” peeves, but there may be some “wild” ones. One big pet peeve is that I don’t like to wait. Although it is a pet peeve, there is nothing that I like about it. Most generally I wait at doctor’s offices, in a line at the grocery store, or to get something on my car fixed and I get restless. I didn’t like to wait for Joice, and she knew it so she would suggest that I find a comfortable place to sit and simply relax while she did her shopping.

Related to not liking to wait is being late. I never like to be late and often I would be way too early, which was unreasonable. Joice would ask, “Why are we going so early?” I would reply, “So we won’t be late.” That did not satisfy her because as she correctly observed there is nothing to do when you arrive early except wait.

I suppose that a more trivial pet peeve I have is when people say they would like to have coffee with me sometime and never do, or when they say, “we must get together sometime,” and sometime never comes. Joice and my daughter correctly noted that the expressions are not to be taken literally and are a polite and Southern way of being “nice.” I know that is true but it still “peeves” me.

Another of my pet peeves, and this is probably a wild one, is Texas drivers in their pickup trucks. They believe they own the road, and I can’t argue with them with my od Toyota Camry. They win every time, and they don’t care how many lanes of road they maneuver to get ahead of me for the exit, or how much noise they make in doing so. They are alpha male pickups dealing with omega cars and everything in between is alphabet soup for them to consume. They also don’t need actual exit ramps because they make their own.

I could get peeved when someone stands too close to me, but it is easier on my mental health to simply move away. Covid brought us the “stand 6 feet apart” rule and I kind of like it. That brings up other wild health peeve issues, like sneezing or coughing and not using your elbow as a waste basket or laughing so loudly that a spray of misty germs flies across the room.

On the other hand, there are lots of potential peeves that bother me only a little, like when the British trains are late, when kids cry in church, or when someone coughs or snorts in a meeting. These may be “wild” peeves because they are unpredictable and don’t belong in a friendly setting. I also get peeved if cars move slowly ahead of me or if some smart guy interrupts a conversation. It is also a peeve when someone stares at me, the waitress is slow bringing the bill, or when all my visitors are looking at their i-phones. I can think of other things too, like when people slurp the last bit out of their Big Gulp, which sound like a wild peeve.

Finally, it peeves me when people say, “no problem,” and I think there is a problem, or if they crack their knuckles or neck bones, although I try to not let it upset my day. On the other hand, I guess those things peeve me more than I am admitting, or I would not even have mentioned them at all. But now I’m not sure now how to classify some of my remaining peeves. Are they “wild” or just “pets.”

It peeves me not to know!

Karl Franklin

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