Sooo... How Can One Overcome a Pet Peeve?

Thursday, April 15, 2021

At Captain Awkward, the proprietress fields a complaint about a trendy new filler word.

Said word is never revealed, but Captain Awkward does correctly name the essence of the problem:

The good news is that you recognize that this is a you-problem.


The bad news is, I don't know how to tell your brain to stop tripping on the word.
Her corrective advice comes in the form of the following intriguing experiment:
    Image by Vlad Gurea, via Unsplash, license.
  • Make yourself a "That-Word-Jar" like a swear jar. It can be physical, or it can be digital, since many online banking platforms will let you create sub-accounts within your main one.
  • Every time you hear the word and flinch or wince or mentally recoil or judge the person using it, put a quarter in the jar (physical) or record that it happened and transfer the funds later (digital).
  • When the jar is full (physical) or hits a certain dollar amount (digital), donate 80% of the money to a worthy cause and use the other 20% to buy yourself a little treat.
  • Repeat until you achieve some measure of peace with the word or get sick of doing the experiment.
I did something one time that shares elements of this. It worked, and I actually mostly got rid of the filler word within the context it was bugging me as a byproduct. Based on that experience, I think the above is good advice.

In grad school, one of the professors started damn near every sentence with the word So. And since he was a likable fellow, people in that building started mirroring the behavior to the point that any time a grad student from his building gave a seminar, I'd just about go crazy from hearing every sentence start that way.

Since these were grad student seminars, everyone not the speaker would fill out an evaluation.

So (hah!) I started counting sentences that began with So -- and helpfully reporting the numbers on my critiques, along with some acerbic remark about how distracting that was.

I quickly found myself looking forward to seminars with such speakers because I knew I could fight back.

Granted, Captain Awkward isn't advocating fighting back, but that's not the point. The reason I like her experiment is that it replaces a fixation on an annoyance with being on the lookout for a small opportunity to do something one wants to do or enjoys. I can see how this tactic can get someone over the annoynace hump.

So... back in grad school, after enough of these critiques, I began to notice a steep decline in that initial filler word. It never went away completely, but it did enough that the fun ended. But by that time, I had gotten to where it didn't annoy me quite as much, anyway.

As with much of what I find valuable at Captain Awkward, it is often couched in a mis-integrated mixture of genuine attempts at empathy and woke-scolding. And far-left politics is always popping up. But for that, I'd have no trouble recommending the blog.

Perhaps the best way to read it would be to add a small amount of money to a woke-scolding jar each time someone there gratuitously starts with pronouns, or non-leftists are basically dismissed as Trumpists or Nazis, or the virtue-signaling meter otherwise pegs...

So... ARI could make out like bandits if enough people did this.

-- CAV


Snedcat said...

Oh yeah, I say "so..." all the time. My best friend in grad school told me once that whenever I said "so...," she was about to hear something interesting.

When I was studying Old French, I was amused to learn that a major stylistic trait of many Old French manuscripts was the wide use of si (from sic, of course) as a sort of conjunction. I chuckled to myself that I was continuing the tradition; I just changed the vowel.

Gus Van Horn said...

So... if we'd been in the same department, I'd never had had this problem. Damn.