I can still remember the faces when I suggested a method of dealing with what most teachers of English considered one of their pet horrors , extended reading. The room was full of tired teachers, and many were quite cynical about the offer to work together to create a new and dynamic approach to the place of stories in the classroom.

Does it mean that the teachers are terrified by extended reading, yet this course remains their pet so that they still have to teach in spite of their dislike?

  • I think both "Renegade Princess" and "R M" are correct, just looking at it from different perspectives. Mar 23, 2017 at 10:10
  • "Pet" means "favorite", though in a somewhat sarcastic sense.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 23, 2017 at 12:21

3 Answers 3


Normally this version of the word pet means "favourite".

Sometimes people use it to mean "causes strong feelings", regardless of whether those feelings are positive or negative. The passage you quoted is one of those times where the writer means "causes strong feelings".

So the basic meaning here is that the situation being described causes strong feelings of horror among the teachers.

However, there's some extra meaning too. Because "pet" is normally referring to positive things, it helps show that the author is exaggerating. These teachers aren't actually, genuinely horrified by the idea of extended reading. They just have strong feelings of dislike towards the situation.

  • Thanks a lot. Your explanation is clear enough for me to understand!
    – Jason Ou
    Mar 23, 2017 at 9:17

The passage quoted seems intended to mock the teachers for their lack of enthusiasm for the author's idea. The teachers were tired and cynical, so that partly explains their lack of enthusiasm.

The opening phrase "I can still remember the faces" draws us in to the comical absurdity of the teachers' reaction to the author's idea.

It is, of course, a ridiculous exaggeration to say the teachers reacted with horror, but that is the author's point. The teachers reaction was laughably overblown.

The word "pet" here means, I think, "favourite" and implies that the teachers actually enjoy raising objections to the author's idea. Here, it does not, I think, denote that the teachers strongly objected, but rather that it ws something they enjoyed objecting to.

Many people do have subjects they seem to enjoy complaining about, such as the fact it always rains on Sundays and public holidays. They are not genuinely furious about it, they don't expect anything to be done about it, they don't even really believe it: they just have something they seem to enjoy moaning about.

Here the author is saying that the teachers' objections were grotesquely overblown, but also they were not serious. They just enjoy moaning about extended reading.

If the teachers had been less tired and cynical, if they had not enjoyed being awkward, then they would, of course, have been more receptive to the author's idea.

The attitude expressed by the author is not uncommon amongst management consultants, but of course that doesn't mean he was right. The teachers may have had perfectly good reasons, well articulated by abbie, but to understand the passage here we have to recognise the insidious nature of the author's intent.

  • Sorry, but the teachers did not react with horror, pet or otherwise. The subject of extended reading (which many teachers found particularly wasteful of time and energy - that is it was one of their pet horrors) and the teachers reacted to the writer's suggested "new and dynamic" (and, in their view naive) approach with cynicism. You have completely misunderstood the quote. Mar 24, 2017 at 3:40

No, this term is used similarly to how pet peeve is used. It's an annoyance that they find particularly horrible.

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