In a word: peever

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word: 

PEEVER

My worthy colleague Gael Spivak posted this yesterday in a Facebook comment thread: “I forget who created the word ‘peever.’ I think John McIntyre knows.”

Actually, not, and it turns out to be a little complicated.

The root word, it appears from an inspection of the Oxford English Dictionary, is peevish, which has been around since 1400 in the sense of “perverse, refractory; headstrong, obstinate; capricious, skittish; (also) coy. Obs.” Its etymology is uncertain, perhaps rising from perverse

The modern sense of peevish, "irritable, querulous; childishly fretful, characterized by or exhibiting petty bad temper," dates from the sixteenth century. The OED records a text from 1530: "And I sholde do after youre schole, Tlerne to patter to make me peuysshe."

Loss of the spelling peuysshe is regrettable.

The complementary noun peevishness arrives more or less simultaneously. 

The verb peeve, "to grumble, complain petulantly," appears to be of U.S. origin, dating from the early twentieth century. It can also be transitive, "to irritate, annoy." Peeved, "irritated, annoyed, put in a peevish mood," is also of twentieth-century U.S. vintage. 

And the noun peeve, in the pet peeve sense of "a frequent subject of complaint," Merriam-Webster dates from 1919.

Finally we get to peever, in the sense of one given to grumbling and complaint, often unfounded, about about errors in English and the supposed decay of English. It has not yet landed in the OED or M-W. The only entry for peever  in the OED is "the stone, piece of pottery, etc., used in the game of hopscotch. Also: the game of hopscotch itself," dating from the nineteenth century. 

Neither do the dictionaries register my own humble contribution to English: 

peeververein, n., The collective group of self-appointed language experts whose complaints about errors in grammar and usage are generally unfounded or trivial. From peeververein, Ger. "union," "club," "association." U.S., June 2012

It will take [broad hint coming] use of the word in published work other than mine to draw lexicographical attention.

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
45°