Non-native speaker here.

I've heard the term Pet Peeve used in the past, and always felt it has a positive, self-humoring connotation.

Today I wanted to use it myself for the first time, in an email to a co-worker. I was writing to correct a typo she made in a specification document, which in fact changes the meaning, but can be easily understood to be a typo. Something like "Hi Jenn, a small pet peeve... ".

As I understood the connotation, what I meant is "I know I'm being Anal here but for the sake of accuracy...". To be sure, I've googled Pet Peeve, but the wiki entry didn't sound so positive:

a minor annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly annoying to himself

And it goes on with an example of a supervisor that gets mad at his workers for leaving their desk messy etc.

So, what term can better convey what I meant?

  • Your understanding is good, I'm not sure there's a need for a "better" term. Would "niggle" work for you? (Meaning 4: a slight or trivial objection or complaint.) If so, I'll develop it into an answer. It misses the "personal" aspect of "pet peeve" though.
    – AndyT
    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:26
  • Well, if pet peeve is indeed considered personal and positive (unlike what I understood from the Wiki), there's no need for another term. You can post that as an answer and I'll accept it if there's a consensus on it... thanks!
    – OmerB
    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:32
  • 2
    if this is about ensuring a specification is accurate, then it isn't a 'pet peeve', which would be something that only mattered to you, or mattered dis-proportionally to you. This is just a mistake needs to be corrected, it isn't a matter of opinion. If you feel the need to soften pointing out another person's error, you could just note that its always easier to spot other people's typos than your own.
    – Spagirl
    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:35
  • "Pet peeve" isn't positive, no. I meant it meets your description of "I know I'm being anal here but for the sake of accuracy...". I don't see anything positive in that description. The way you've used it makes it self-effacing (or "self-humouring" as you describe it), but any negative word can be used in that manner. "Whoops, I'm so clumsy!" isn't positive. I think I glossed over the part of your question where you wanted it to be positive; my apologies.
    – AndyT
    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:36

5 Answers 5


Specifications are a type of legal document. They are the sort of things that you quibble over; and spelling errors which might be misinterpretable are prime candidates for quibbling.

Quibble has a couple of different senses, but the one you want is 'a complaint that isn't about the what you are trying to say, but about the words which you used to say what I know you are trying to say.'

A trivial or minor complaint, objection or argument.
"He harped on his quibble about how the dark red paint should be described as carmine rather than burgundy."


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  • Nice! I like it that even the sound of quibble conveys what I was looking for.
    – OmerB
    Oct 5, 2017 at 5:25

If it can easily be understood to be a typo, call it a typo. Say something like:

Hi, Jenn. There is a typo is the fourth sentence of the third paragraph which changes the meaning. [Sentence as she wrote it] should be [Sentence as it should be].

The typo should be in bold.

Calling it a pet peeve is making too big a deal out of a typo. And it makes you sound, well, peevish. Give your colleague the benefit of the doubt.

If your colleague repeatedly makes the same mistake, or if her documents always have typos, then talk to her directly about it in person, in private, nicely. But then it isn't a pet peeve of yours, it is something she needs to conscious of.

I would call a pet peeve something like too much mayo on a tuna-fish sandwich. I agree with the definition you quoted. Pet peeve, in Wikipedia:

A pet peeve or pet aversion is a minor annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly annoying to himself, to a greater degree than others may find.

  • I agree. Surely a pet peeve is something that a person frequently enjoys grumbling about? A one-off correction of someone's writing in order to make the meaning clearer is just a helpful suggestion. Sep 5, 2017 at 9:03
  • Thanks. I've used typo in the question for clarity, but it's actually more of an inconsistentcy, and I think typo will be too strong here.
    – OmerB
    Oct 5, 2017 at 5:57

You could try hobby horse (which Collins thinks should be hyphenated if you want to avoid confusion with the toy, but I think is fine as two words).


I get that the intention is to be almost apologetic. Someone has the authority to mandate how this ought to be done, but would rather ask it as a favour, that others oblige them, instead of a demand.

A, "peeve," changes its meaning when it's a superior's peeve, rather than a peer's, or subordinate's. Maybe, "idiosyncrasy," would work. Or perhaps, "foible."

Definition of idiosyncrasy

plural idiosyncrasies

1 . . . :a peculiarity of constitution or temperament :an individualizing characteristic or quality

The working environment of the studio was a private place that tended to take on the idiosyncrasies of the occupant. — cullen murphy, Vanities, "When Fairfield County Was the Comic-Strip Capital of the World," 9 Aug. 2017

Definition of foible

. . . 2 :a minor flaw or shortcoming in character or behavior :weakness . . . admired their teacher despite his foibles (added italics)


Use pet peeve. You are trying to point out a problem without humiliating the person. You are looking for a way to let them save face. You want to say that the annoyance is minor and that your comment is more a problem with you than with the other person. The term pet peeve is actually a fine way to do this.

A pet peeve is a favorite irritation: some problem which particularly irritates you, that you enjoy (or can’t help) bringing up over and over.¹ It’s not a positive trait. You’re right that it can be used in a positive and self-deprecating way, when you clearly apply it to yourself as a self-criticism.

But. The trick is to use it correctly in context so that the self-criticism is clear. In this example:

Hi Jenn, a small pet peeve …

you seem to have deflected the criticism from yourself, by misusing pet peeve to mean just the problem itself, when actually it means the character flaw in you, the person who is irritated. Getting this wrong is one of my pet peeves.*

Try to make it clear your intention is self-criticism. For example:

Hi Jenn, I know this is just my pet peeve. I can never help bringing up … when I see it. Will you please humor me by …

* Not a real pet peeve of mine: this is just a bit of illustrative humor. Some of my real pet peeves are:
- When people don’t enter the intersection when preparing to make a left turn on a green light
- The spelling of relinquish
- Any PC function that can’t happen without a mouse
- Mugshots posted using the wrong aspect ratio

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