A pet peeve is something which particularly irritates someone. Usually, a specific action or behavior such as failing to wash dishes after using them is considered a pet peeve. Some people also call pet peeves “pet hates,” in a reference to the fact that a statement about a pet peeve is often prefaced with the words “I really hate it when...” Most people have an assortment of pet peeves, some of which may seem idiosyncratic to outside observers.
The origins of the term appear to lie in the early 1900s, although interestingly, the phrase “take the pet,” for “take offense” has been used since the late 1500s. In this sense, “pet” refers to something personal which particularly vexes someone, rather than a domesticated animal. “Peeve” in the sense of something irritating first appeared in 1908, and it is related to the word “peevishness,” meaning irritable.
Many pet peeves are related to social convention and hygiene. People might express irritation with individuals who do not brush their teeth, for example, or to people who refuse to keep right when they ride escalators. Many pet peeves concern small behaviors which are not terribly important in the long term, but for some reason these behaviors are perceived as extremely irritating. Someone may also consider a social cause such as spaying and neutering a “pet peeve,” in this case expressing irritation with people who do not alter their animals.
Small annoyances can make a big difference in someone's life, especially if he or she is not adept at addressing these issues or handling stress. Office environments often serve as a fermenting ground for pet peeves, with various people in the office stewing over small and innocent actions until they explode with irritation. Teachers and other professionals may also struggle with pet peeves, especially when they see the same error repeated over and over again by different people.
It can sometimes be difficult to rationalize pet peeves, and it is important for people to recognize this. If it is possible to accommodate someone's pet peeves, this is often the best course of action. On the other hand, if accommodating a pet peeve requires unreasonable levels of effort, it may be a good idea to talk about the issue with the person concerned, to see if a compromise could be worked out. People should also recognize their own pet peeves before casting aspersions on others.