Have you ever said, “That’s my pet peeve”?
I have, too. I was going to start this blog by sharing one of my pet peeves, but then I got to wondering, “Why do we say ‘pet peeve’ anyway?”
A bit of research suggested that the expression “pet peeve” goes back only about 100 years, which also makes me wonder – what did people call their peeves before then?
Anyway, “peeve” is both a verb and a noun. As a verb, when you’re “peeved,” you’re annoyed or irritated by someone or something. As a noun, “peeve” is the someone or something that’s causing your annoyance or irritation.
As for “pet”? That means especially annoyed or irritated.
Everyone has pet peeves, whether they use that expression or not. Fingernails on a chalk board. Someone standing too close and crowding your space. People showing up at your home without calling first. Toilet seats left up. Hair left in the sink.
And bad bosses, which is mostly redundant.
So, without further digression, here’s my pet peeve.
My companion and I were meeting our friends, a husband and wife, for dinner at a restaurant. We all were in regular contact, but this couple lives on the other side of the country and we hadn’t seen them for a number of years.
We had a lovely meal and lots of good conversation and laughs. As we finished dinner (Warning: Pet Peeve Approaching) the wife took a small case out of her purse. She snapped it open, offered the contents to her husband and took one for herself.
The contents were toothpicks.
They both then did a very lengthy and very thorough teeth cleaning at our dinner table.
The conversation now sounded like this:
Wife: So (pick, pick), have you (suck, pick, suck) talked to (pick, pick, pick) Roger lately?
Husband: (pick, suck) We haven’t (pick, pick) heard from him since his (pick, suck, pick) divorce.
This clearly wasn’t aberrant behavior for them. Somehow, since we’d last seen them, this had become their “normal” and they were completely at ease, talking and picking and sucking and…
Eventually, the picking and sucking concluded, and thankfully, so did our evening.
My companion and I compared notes and he, too, was disgusted.
Which made me wonder, are we the only ones who feel this way?
It turns out – no. Just a few days later there was a letter in Dear Abby on this very subject. Great timing!
The writer was complaining that her in-laws “often use a toothpick while we are still seated at the dinner table…When they dine at my home, they leave their used toothpicks lying around…My mother-in-law is now starting to floss her teeth in public.”
That’s really disgusting!
Dear Abby agreed that “oral hygiene should be attended to away from the table,” and backed up her opinion with Emily Post’s in Post’s most recent book on etiquette. “Toothpicks,” Emily added, “should be used in private.” The same for flossing, of course.
Now, everyone knows that good dental hygiene is important – no, critical – to good health. And everyone hates food getting stuck in their teeth.
Especially spinach. Spinach getting stuck in your teeth is a given. Have spinach, will stick.
But oral hygiene, while critical, isn’t mean to be shared.
I do realize that in the Grand Scheme of Life, someone sharing their disgusting, annoying, unsanitary dental cleaning in public is not all that important.
But to reference Emily Post again,
Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.
And please – do not use that fork to pick your teeth.