Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pet Peeves

I recently read an article in the New York Times about "pet peeve words." These are the words that drive us crazy, that we tell our students to NOT use (see entry on split infinitives). For me, it is the word "impact" when it is used to mean influence or affect. Unfortunately, there is no consistent way to know if a word is a pet peeve of your professor. In the article, the author said he hated to word "gingerly" because we also did not use the word "ginger" as a verb. I think gingerly is kind of cute and a good word to use in some contexts. The author did point out a pet peeve that I think should be universal: oversimplistic. This word really does not mean anything different from simplistic, though I know it is often use for added emphasis. I think simplistic is good enough, and think oversimplistic is over kill (or is that kill?) (plus, you may notice your spell checker marking it because it is not a real, compound word). Another "word" I sometimes find students using is irregardless. This may sound sophisticated, but is not really a word. Plus, regardless, a perfectly good word, means just the same. The "irr" prefix usually means the opposite of, so our use of "irregardless" to mean "without regard" does not make sense (it does make sense in the words relevant and irrelevant).
One way to avoid the problem of using your teacher's pet peeve words (if you do not know what they are in advance) is to vary your words. If I see one use of one "impact" I might note it, but if I see many uses of "impact," I mark it off as an overused cliche. Use a thesaurus to find other words to use to describe a same or similar thing. I am often surprised that students do not know what a thesaurus is-it is a listing of same of similar words (available in print and on-line).
Keep Writing!

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