At Throw Grammar From the Train, Jan Freeman poses a question worth considering: What is the top peeve?
She says that Arnold Zwicky favors decimate "for its persistence in the face of usage facts: The Peevy for Lifetime Achievement," and goes on to explain that both the strict and loose senses of the word have been contentedly present in English for centuries.
Some would favor hopefully, and 'struth, the sentence adverb can still inspire pop-eyed, wattle-wagging rage, but it is an ephemeral objection. The hopefully-phobes are the children of the people who despised contact as a verb in the 1940s and 1950s. As they pass on to whatever precinct of Valhalla is reserved for the Peeververein, their objection will likely expire with them.
No, the top peeve will have to display not only intensity of reaction, but also persistence over a considerable span. The stranded-preposition superstition and the split infinitive shibboleth both boast tenure, but they fail to inspire white-hot self-righteousness.
The decimate peeve has much going for it, combining a lack of legitimate foundation with sneering superiority ("Don't know your Latin, do you? State university?"). I'm inclined toward the Zwicky-Freeman conclusion.
Unless, perhaps, you can suggest a better?Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun