Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Free the Peeves

Can you separate legitimate language gripes from mere pet peeves? Visit Barbara Wallraff's new Web site and find out. There are usage forums, too.

I passed all the quizzes but one. See if you can guess which one I would have answered "none of the above" to.

24 comments:

Phillip Blanchard said...

I missed only one, too, but that's because the "correct" answer was wrong.

Todd said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Matt said...

I think we missed the same one, too. Of course, I was distracted by that ridiculous chirping caged thing in the top right corner.

barbara wallraff said...

OK, so which one is "wrong," in your view? Kindly remember that Free the Peeves is an anti-pet-peeve site. I'll bet you'd be as strongly anti-peeve as I am if you got letters and e-mail from all kinds of people who write and edit in all kinds of contexts, some of whom have the strangest bits of misinformation lodged in their heads.

Sorry about the peeve that won't shut up. Its "shush" button seems to be broken. I'll tell the Web designer right now.

Phillip Blanchard said...

There's no point in my saying which one was "wrong" because you'll disagree, and I don't want to damage our warm relationship.

Phillip Blanchard said...

Hint: A word may be "perfectly good" and still be wrong.

Peter Fisk said...

1. Are all peeves, by definition, unfounded?

2. Shouldn't the objective be to keep the thing caged?

Nicole said...

Ok, I give. Which one was it? I came up with all "right" answers.

And are you two in agreement that the same one is wrong? Why?

Enlighten the masses.

Bill said...

I thought the "proactive" question should have come with an answer along the lines of "It is a word, but it's an annoying buzzword that should be avoided."

Barbara argues that there is no equivalent word for the concept, and sure enough I haven't come up with a good alternative.

Phillip Blanchard said...

I also "failed" the "proactive" question. It is annoying, and usually is used when "active" will do. I've never seen a sentence with "proactive" in it (except a quotation) I couldn't make better without it. A peeve? Perhaps, but I'm entitled.

Bill said...

Looking at the quiz again, I think it was the pooh-poohing of the hit man that led me to avoid that answer. I know the word is in the dictionary, but an execution-style slaying still might be appropriate.

I can't say I agree on substituting "active," though.

Peter Fisk said...

All quibbling aside, Barbara's site is clever and useful, and it's appreciated.

Phillip Blanchard said...

So I looked for an example of "proactive" use where "active" would do and I couldn't find one before I lost interest. "Proactive" appears mostly in quotations, at least in the Post.

Peter Fisk said...

“Active” is not a universal substitute for “proactive.”

“Proactive” automatically denotes good intention and carries a built-in time reference, a sense of anticipatory intervention. “Active” doesn’t.

Try changing “proactive sex education” to “active sex education” in a local school story and see what happens. (And you can’t just delete “proactive” there, because the meaning would be altered.)

Jack the Ripper was active. Whoever picked up the pieces of the Hindenburg was active. Neither was proactive.

I’m no big fan of “proactive,” but I think there’s a place for it, and I’m willing to let it slide sometimes. Words come and go. The language evolves.

Phillip Blanchard said...

I'm not on a crusade. I leave it when it's appropriate but it rarely is.

Bill said...

Now, that's what I call prioritizing your decision-goal objectives.

Peter Fisk said...

My horoscope for today:

By Jeraldine Saunders
... LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Being stuck in situations with those of different philosophies and conflicting viewpoints can try your social skills. Make the best of dull one-upmanship games, and wait to forge agreements or extract promises.

It's in the paper. It must be true.

barbara wallraff said...

OK, OK! Thanks for your help in editing www.freethepeeves.com. Is everyone now happy with my May 18 quiz question?

Nicole said...

Barbara, I think that's a good edit. At least, it's much less likely to trip people up now. But would you mind posting the old answer here for posterity's sake?

barbara wallraff said...

Hi, Nicole,

I wouldn't mind, but I didn't archive the original wording. It was something like "Good grief! A hit man? This person has a pet peeve."

BTW, I posted a new quiz yesterday. Can I link this forum directly to my site? Let's try: www.freethepeeves.com

Aaron said...

Peter Fisk wrote:

“Proactive” automatically denotes good intention and carries a built-in time reference, a sense of anticipatory intervention. “Active” doesn’t.

Try changing “proactive sex education” to “active sex education” in a local school story and see what happens. (And you can’t just delete “proactive” there, because the meaning would be altered.)

*******

OK, Peter, so “active” is a poor substitute in this case, but “proactive” still chaps my behind. One, it’s just plain ugly. Two, it’s ambiguous. What is it, sex ed for virgins? Sex ed taught by a professional sex educator? By a professional sex worker?! Sex ed that stresses condom use? Abstinence?

“Anticipatory intervention”? One person’s good intention is another person’s invasion of privacy. Time to elect a few new school board members!

Notwithstanding a former colleague’s insistence that “proactive” is a portmanteau from “prophylactic” and “active,” there are plenty of words more accurate and descriptive.

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Feadog said...

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the June 8th quiz. When is it ever appropriate for a transcriptionist to "change" anything?

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