Sunday 18, June 2017 by Jessica Combes

Please don't pet the peeves


It’s funny how one thing can drive someone barking mad while not even make someone else bat an eyelid.

If you were to go around our editorial desk, you’ll find a list of things that simply will not make it into our magazines. I detest split infinitives, while another member of the team cannot stomach a sentence starting with ‘And’ or ‘So’. If you want to raise the ire of yet another individual, try throw in the words ‘game-changing’ or ‘unique’ (spoiler alert–your client and their product are probably neither). ‘Wordsmith’ is another one that warrants a collective shudder.

Chatting to other members of the journalism community reveals more varied irritants and it struck me as funny how different things annoy us as we chime out “Oh I hate that! That’s my pet peeve!”

I started thinking about what really gets my back up and sets my teeth on edge vs when do I claim something’s an irritation without fully considering it–and almost all of them are related to communication in some way or another.

Text speak
I cannot emphasise this one enough. When you send a message consisting predominantly of consonants and numerals, like you’re playing some weird version of Bingo, what exactly is it that you think you have achieved, aside from irritating the person on the receiving end? Have you saved time? (You haven’t). Do you think your message is somehow more succinct? (It’s not). I can understand  abbreviations if you’re pressed for characters over Twitter, but there is no reason, ever, 2 tlk lyk dis.

This falls in its own category, for me. For some reason it has always irritated me to the point where I have declined date number two because the individual in question used it excessively. I can’t even tell you why I hate it so much, when I have no problem whatsoever with FYI, BTW, or ASAP. I think it’s because if you say ‘LOL’ out loud, it doesn’t sound like laughter; it sounds like you’re trying to talk after having root canal.

Lazy conversationalists
One of the great things about living in cities such as Dubai is being exposed to new people from all over the globe, all the time. The opportunity to learn about new places and cultures is immense. So when I meet somebody new and the first thing they say is ‘So, I guess we should get this out the way… Where are you from?” I can almost feel my blood curdle. Other questions that are decidedly bleh include:

-  What do you do for fun? (As little as possible mate; any day I can have a lie-in and a nap in the same 24-hour period is my version of winning at life.)

-  What do you do? (I convert oxygen, mostly.)

- What’s your job? (I write stories for suit-wearing grown-ups.)

- What do your tattoos mean? (I don’t have any, but I like to watch my friends who do have them grind their teeth to stumps in annoyance.)

- Anything pertaining to owning a pet lion or elephant back home in Africa.

Instead, why can’t people be creative when they meet someone new, and actually pay them the courtesy of listening to the response? Some of the best questions I’ve received include:

- What book are you currently reading? (Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.)

- Who, in your opinion, was the best Batman? (Michael Keaton.)

- You have to pick one superpower–go! (Telekinesis.)

- Are you a sunrise, daylight, twilight, or night person, and why? (In order: night, twilight, sunrise, daylight–I detest direct sunlight.)

- If you had to eat one dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be? (Frozen yoghurt.)

We live in a period where technology can be leveraged in a way that people can always be in contact, regardless of the time and distance that separates them. Messages and pictures can sent instantaneously and video calls allow us to look at our loved ones while we speak to them–yet we seem to be getting worse at communicating.

It’s as if we’ve become slaves to technology instead of willing it to do our bidding. We’re in such a rush to be ‘efficient’ with ‘streamlined processes’ that we spout off emails, texts, whatsapps, and tweets without even considering what we’re saying. In a time when human communication should be at its peak, we seem to have more crossed lines than ever.

Sometimes I wish we could back to the days where were had to put pen to paper and think about we were writing to another person. Thoughts flowed and full sentences were constructed; we wrote about things that mattered to us and we said what we were feeling, rather vomiting words onto the page for the sake of it.

When I was expecting mail, the anticipation was almost as good as opening the mail box to find it waiting. I would reread letters countless times until the folds of the paper were worn down and soft. I would never get my reply right on the first go. There was always a better way to say something, a neater way of writing it, and it wouldn’t go into the envelope until I was happy with it.

Maybe my nostalgia is due to getting older, but I can’t help feeling, as I look at the angry state of the world, that if we could slow down just a little bit, and consider what we say and how we say it to each other more carefully, it might just become a slightly more tolerable place.


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