|Oh, yeah, this is reeeeeally funny.|
OK, it's time to talk about another kind of pet now, the kind that requires neither a pooper scooper nor a baggy. Has neither feather nor fur, and doesn't even beg while you're eating dinner. Animal lovers and animal haters alike have 'em, even though we may try to deny their existence. They're those annoying little beasties known as pet PEEVES.
|If she does that again, I'll SCREAM!|
Pet peeves are those seemingly minute annoyances that get on our last nerve, and nurture simmering resentment that threatens to explode with little provocation. All it takes it that proverbial last straw. Here are some typical pet peeves:
- You're so thirsty, your tongue is sticking to the roof of your mouth. You go to the fridge for a tall cold drink of your favorite beverage, and find the container has barely a half teaspoon of liquid left in it.
- Someone empties the ice cube tray, but doesn't bother to refill it with water.
- Someone borrows your car and returns it with nothing but fumes left in the gas tank.
- Someone borrows your XYZ and returns it broken.
- Your neighbor encourages his 150-pound dog to defecate on your front lawn. (But he must do it at NIGHT, because you never catch him in the act. Still, there's that incriminating pile every morning.)
- Your neighbor blows all of his leaves out of his yard ... and into yours.
- After your mailman puts mail into your box, he forgets to close it. Rain or shine.
- At least twice a week, your paperboy throws the morning newspaper under your car.
- Whenever your roommate, child, or significant other uses the kitchen sponge, (s)he leaves it sopping wet on the counter in a soggy sodden mess.
- Inside-out socks and underwear in the laundry basket.
Any of those ring a bell with you? My only real pet peeve is over people who don't use their darned turn signals. In particular, when I'm waiting at a red light with my left hand turn signal blinking, and there's a whole line of traffic on the other side of the intersection, blinkerless. Most of THEM are waiting to make a left turn, too, but they don't have their turn signals on, so I have to WAIT, just in case they come straight. ARRRRGH! It makes me crazy!!! Still, I wait. After all, some rights are worth dying over, but the right of way isn't one of them. How about you? What's your biggest pet peeve?
Now that we've talked about pampered pets and pet peeves, I want to touch on one other kind of pet, and that's pet words. If you've ever known anyone with a verbal pet word or phrase, it's hard to miss. I used to know a gal whose favorite word was "absurd." The first five hundred times she used it were mildly amusing. Then, there was the "awesome" phase, when it seemed like just about everyone was sprinkling their conversation with that word. Teenagers are probably the most apt to glom onto favorite words; they have their own unique "teen speak." My friends and I used to overuse words like gross, neat, cool, and gag a maggot. (Matter of fact, I STILL say neat and cool ...)
Extending beyond verbal pet words, writers are just as likely to fall into the pet word trap.
|Out, damned pet!|
When editing, we have to leash those pet words and show 'em who's boss. Many writers have a tendency to overuse words like and, but, then and now, and I'm one of them. Another weakness I share with some other writers is using phrases like was thinking or was running, when the simple past tenses thought and ran are much more effective. It's also a good idea to be aware of the word used to begin each sentence. If fifteen sentences within the first page all start with the same word, maybe it's time to consider spicing it up with a little bit of variety.
Even if there's a particularly effective phrase within your work, overuse can dilute its effectiveness, and turn what started out as impressive into merely ordinary. For example, one book I read described a woman's hair as being the color of a new penny. I loved that. Vivid image, right? But, in the course of the book, the author described half a dozen other things as being the color of a new penny. He did the same thing in his second book, so I guess that truly was a pet phrase of his. I'd be willing to bet he was unaware of how much he overused it, though. (Both of his books were self-published, so this is a particular caveat for those who seek self-publication: beware of those pet words!)
Now that we've discussed pampered pets, pet peeves, and pet words, I'll leave you with a couple of priceless quotes about words. Referring to Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner said, "He has never used a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." To which Hemingway replied, "Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"
Until next time, it'd be awesome if you take care of yourselves. And each other.