Monday, January 26, 2009

My Pet's Name is Peeve

I have a name and it's not "Honey." But there's a waitress in a local restaurant I went to this past weekend who thought so. In fact, everyone at the table had the same name. This wasn't a dive diner. The place was semi-tastefully decorated. Upon entering, a bar stretched along one side, its surface polished, candles placed at intervals reflecting the shine. The dining room was dimly lit; linen table clothes with starched napkins sitting in the center of plates like mini-pyramids.

The waitress handed out menus while rattling off specials, and then took our drink orders. "Honey, what do you want?" she said to my brother-in-law. I felt my gut twist and waited for him to make a remark once she split, but he didn't.

As the evening wore on, so did the waitress on my nerves. "What do you want on your salad, honey? Can I get you anything else, honey?"

"Yes, you can," I wanted to say. "Get me a sharp knife. I feel a homicide coming on." But still, I bit my tongue, so much that by the end of dinner my speech sounded like I'd had one too many wines, honey.

Don't call me "honey." I hate it even when my husband calls me that. I just do. He knows my name, but still, he'll call me "honey" and I've given up telling him that I hate it.

That aside, finally when the check came, my sister said, "If she called me 'honey' one more time, I was going to smack her one."

Thank you, sis! I thought it was just me. I no longer felt my usual anal self. And then my husband chimed in, agreeing that it was enough, already. (At that point my tongue bled.)

As with most things in life, less is more. In the case of the waitress, once was enough. I'm willing to give a pass if it's just a minor slip, but the entire night? The only things missing were a southern drawl, pink uniforms and a bald man doing the cooking.

Same goes for words overused in writing.

For instance, I just finished reading the third in the Jeff Lindsay's "Dexter" series. Brief review: not bad, but not great compared to his first two. On to my peeve. The author over-used certain phrases/words, ones that would have stood out if used once or twice. They were creative, yes, which made them stand out and all the more annoying through repetition. "He goggled me," he wrote, the verb "goggled" defined as "to stare with wide and bulging eyes."

So maybe the character doing the "goggling" had big, bulging eyes. I get that. But, seeing it over and over just made my eyes bulge. I don't want to pick on the author. After all, he's published and I'm not. But even multi-pubbed authors have habits they need to monitor, in my opinion.

Did "goggling" jerk me out of the story? Nope. It just annoyed me while I read the story. Sort of like shoppers who I think are talking to me, only to realize they have a hands-free cell phone piece stuck in their ear. Annoying? Yes. Does it keep me from shopping? Hell no. Only an earthquake does that.

Another on my pet peeve list when it comes to writing is dialog tags. Not the usual "he said, she said." I'm talking about writers who find fifty different ways of saying "said," and then using them over and over.

And then there are all those discussions over dialog tag use. Who hasn't read about, taken a class in, or gotten confused by, them? There's always conflicting opinions, too. Example: "Go to your room!" she spat. Nope, can't use spat according to some. Apparently, you can't "spit" words.

Who cares? I don't, but many do, so I say, why not just keep it simple? Use "said." And if you're using it too much, or feel the need to dig up newer and fancy "saids" then maybe you've got too much dialog. Just my opinion. Dialog falls into my "Less is more" category, too.

But again, I'm not published, so maybe I need to shut up already. I just know what I like, and I don't like an entire scene that's nothing but dialog. If I want dialog, I'll read a Shakespeare play. It takes a special person, I believe, to read a play of any kind. All those soliloquies make my eyes glaze over. As if Shakespeare's use of them isn't torture enough, how about having to memorize them? I had to memorize "The Quality of Mercy" speech from "Merchant of Venice", my English teacher Torquemada reincarnated.

Perhaps that's why long paragraphs of dialog make me push the book aside. I'm blaming my Freshman English teacher for my present day pet peeve. I despise long dialog. And I'm not referring to those broken up with some action. I'm talking about the ones that stretch for close to ten sentences. It creates the mental picture of the character turning blue while speaking. If that's the writer's intention, well, fine. It makes me stop reading, so there. It's my pet peeve.

I think it's lazy writing.

But then again, I'm not a published writer. Yet. And don't call me "honey" in your comments, or I'll come to your blog and tag you. Oh yes. You will feel my wrath as I bestow upon you another one of my pet peeves.

On a different note, Spring semester begins this week. Every Wednesday and Friday for the next four months I'll be getting closer to my degree. That said, and just because some want to re-live college, I'm going to devote this blog to my life as a 54 year old college student.

Stay tuned. Maybe we'll all learn something new.


Edie said...

My sister worked as a waitress once, and the restaurant owner told her not to call everyone honey. It was a bad habit she'd gotten into, but that cured it.

As for you're not being published, you are still entitled to your opinion. And this is your blog, so you can say whatever you want.

Words like "goggled" used more than once would stop me too. Someone should have caught that before it was released.

spyscribbler said...

Oh, gosh, Kath, I HATE that! I have been known to return the favor, and call them pumpkin (my favorite), honey, sugar, sweetums, etc. I really, really, HATE that.

First, it's so condescending. That I can't bear. Second, it's RUDE. They don't know me! I am NOT their honey!

Glenn doesn't call me honey, but if he did, I would snarl at the waitresses. He DOES call me sweetie, which I love, and if anyone (other than friends) call me sweetie, my teeth are bared.

These are SPECIAL names. My husband calls me sweetie because he loves me. My heart flutters and I am instantly happy. If strangers use them, they are RUINED!

(Great job bringing it around to writing. Sorry to rant, LOL!)

Merry Monteleone said...

I agree with Edie, stop saying "but I'm not published" - so what? It doesn't make your opinion any less valid, and if someone thinks it makes your opinion less than worth listening to, they're a nitwit.

I have to disagree on the Shakespeare thing - I looove Shakespeare, and Merchant of Venice was one of my favorites... but at least I know this is a weird taste thing and not the norm :-)

But I do agree on the dialogue - when they have paragraphs of one character speaking, it's often one of those dreaded info. dumps we were talking about... very few characters have the voice to make it engaging.

The 'honey' thing - I get your ire and she should have probably not used it more than once or twice, but I have to tell you, a waitress works on tips and while that might have annoyed you, there are a lot of people who are tickled by those types of terms of endearment... I used to wait tables in college - the lessons you learn in that job, probably taught me more about reading people than any psychology class ever could.

(I didn't call people I didn't know honey - I did, however, make a staunch habit of paying as much or more attention to the women at the table so they didn't think I was hitting on their husbands... amazing what people can read into a smile)

Kath Calarco said...

Edie, you are so right. Why didn't someone catch the "goggled?" I mean, who uses that word anyway? That said, it'd be hard to miss.

Kath Calarco said...

Spy, rant here all you want. I do, lol.

I never viewed my husband's honey reference as a special treat. Maybe I would except that it's so cliche. lol.

Sweetie is better than honey. Everyone uses honey.

Kath Calarco said...

Merry, you knew how to make tips! The majority of women, I find, are insecure. But then again, so are the majority of men. Wow! We live in a world of insecurity! lol

And nothing wrong with loving Shakespeare plays. A couple of years ago I lunched with Julius Caesar after watching "Julius Caesar" on Broadway. But, I prefer watching the play to reading them.

Pam said...

Hi--found you from Caryn Caldwell's blog, though I think I voted for your ATV before, but can't think of where.

My pet peeve is "missy" and in my writing, I kill "just" and "that" to the point of sharp objects in the eye. I've learned to let it go on the first run and so a find and replace after that.

P.S. Did you read Christopher Moore's The Crystal Heart post? Dang, that man is good!!! (Both of them!)

Robin said...

Oh, I love that you're going to be talking about college!

Love your waitress story - I laughed out loud. My oldest son, since he was very young, only wanted to be called by his name. Never could I say honey, or love bug, or any other term of endearment. He gets really mad at me if I do. My youngest, however, loves being called different names. And me? All those honey's sure would have gotten on my nerves too.

Unique words that are repeated in books have me taking notice too. I often wonder if the author just didn't realize how often he or she used it.

Kath Calarco said...

Pam, thanks for stopping by, and especially for voting for my friend, Edie.

Thanks for the Chris Moore update. I was just about to pre-order his new release. Hope you're checking it out, too. I love that guy!

Kath Calarco said...

Robin, I can still call you "Binks," right? :)

Tomorrow is the big day! Back to school unless the threatening snow storm stops it. And for the first time I didn't go out and buy new a new pencil box. I guess that makes me a sage student.

Robin said...

Of course you can, Savvylicious! :)

Erica Orloff said...

My significant other calls me Elvis, but that's another thing entirely.

I spent years as a waitress and bartender. I occasionally call people sweetie. I think it's maternal instinct.

Mess with me too much and I might call someone jackass.

And yeah . . . some oddities like "goggled" just jump out. It's really not necessary.


Kath Calarco said...

Elvis, I never saw "goggled" before reading the third "Dexter" book. Sometimes I think writers become tired and maybe want to spice things up a bit. When I read Stephen King's "Cell", he used the word "shat." WOW! I read that book when it first came out three years ago, and I still remember "shat" about it. :) Maybe that's why authors go the unusual route. They want me to remember the book. *shrug*