Tag Archives: annoying


This is like a really minor pet peeve of mine, something I’ve noticed just kind of peripherally for a while now. When I think about even trying to describe it, I feel crazy, because it’s so minor. I’m talking about when writers use the word “devour” in terms of reading. I just read some blog post somewhere, and the author was making the case that she’s an avid reader. And she said it, that she devours books.


And it just kind of sets me off, because, in my mind anyway, there’s so much going on in that choice of vocabulary. The first time I became aware of this weird figure of speech was while I was reading Team of Rivals, the Lincoln biography by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Obviously I’m not going to go through it and check how many times exactly, but she wrote about Lincoln devouring books and newspapers often enough that it stood out in my memory.

Wow, I thought to myself, she really likes using that word to describe Lincoln’s voracious appetite for the written word. And that was it, I finished the book, eventually. It was a really big book. Definitely top five biggest books I’ve ever read in my life. Although, if you pressed me to name four other books in that top five list, I don’t think I’d be able to name anything. Maybe it’s the top one.

Maybe that’s one of my annoying figures of speech that I overuse, top five, top whatever. I’m aware of some of them. I hope that I’m somewhat conscious of phrases or words that I maybe rely on too heavily in my writing. I don’t know where any of it comes from, really, the words that I use, the way in which I speak or write.

Like here’s a little example. The other night I was watching an episode of Parks and Recreation on Netflix, and one of the characters used the word “innocuous.” And for some reason it popped in my head, it stood out amongst all the other dialogue. In the sentence that the word was spoken, I was able to kind of piece together through context what it meant. But I thought about it a little more. Did I know what the word innocuous meant before I’d seen the show?

I have no idea. I can’t think of any previous instances in which I’d used or heard or read the word innocuous. And since then, I keep finding myself wanting to slip it into conversation, or writing. The thing is, I’m not even sure I know how to use it, really. I could look it up, but I’m afraid that if I do, I’m just going to be all about innocuous, like look at this big word I’m using, and I’ll get to the point where I’m using it too much.

I feel like a word like innocuous is probably best used maybe once a year. Anything more, well, I don’t know, it sounds weird. And that’s kind of the feeling that I get when I see somebody writing about how they devour books. I definitely noticed it being used more than once in that Lincoln book, and now I’m hyper conscious of it whenever I see it in the wild.

It’s too original to be used more than, I’d say, once in a lifetime. That’s it. If you’re a writer, you should only be allowed to use it once. Definitely not twice in the same book. And you know what? I take it back, it shouldn’t be used at all. And never in reference to your own reading habits, like that blog post I was talking about earlier. Because even if you’re only using it that one time, it’s like, OK, we get it, you read a lot of books. Congratulations.

Does this bother anybody else? Am I the only person in the world that gets all bent out of shape about trivial crap like this? Because I would never be able to talk about it in real life. I wouldn’t know how to explain it to anybody else. I’m not even sure that I’m doing a good job of articulating what I mean right now.

And I’m not trying to nitpick, because like I said, everybody’s got their own quirks and styles and traps that they fail to notice themselves continually falling into. And maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m seeing a trend or a pattern where there’s nothing there at all. Maybe it’s like innocuous. I notice a word for the first time and after that I find that I’m seeing it everywhere.

This happened a while back when I “discovered” the word zeitgeist in some newspaper article. I’d never seen it before, so I looked it up, I found out what it meant, and then I felt like I saw it being used in every other piece of writing I read. Was I going crazy? Were people all of the sudden using these novel words? Or was it simply the fact that I’d noticed it, and now I was more aware of their occasional use?

Like what other weird words are out there in use that have yet to make an appearance on my radar? When I’m reading a book, am I just glossing over the occasional word or phrase that doesn’t make sense to me? As long as I get the general context of a paragraph or a page, am I missing out on material, a word, a line, that I’m simply not aware that I’m unaware of?

I have no idea, and the more I try to think about it, I’m just getting dizzy, my chain of thought processes is starting to unravel. I don’t know how I got here based on writing about a pet peeve, that it annoys me when people use the word devour in the context of reading. But it does annoy me. It’s like a little verbal trick that’s, in my view anyway, beyond overused. It’s like fondue. The first time you have fondue, you’re like, wow, that’s pretty cool, really interesting. But after that, do you really want fondue again? No, once in a lifetime is enough. Both for devour and for fondue.

Grinds in the coffee

I make my own coffee at home. It’s nothing fancy, just plain drip coffee. And while most of the time there’s nothing to say really, because it’s just a regular coffee machine making regular pots of coffee, every once in a while I’ll screw it up. My mistake won’t be noticeable right away, I’ll pour myself a cup and everything will look OK enough. But as soon as I add some milk, it’s like one of those trick pens that reveals a secret message, that it wasn’t just coffee that I poured out of the pot, but also dozens of chunky coffee grinds floating on the surface.


It’s just such a bummer, like I don’t even know how or why it happens, but it does. Not always, and not often enough that I’d consider really trying to figure out what’s going on, but just every now and then, like oh yeah, coffee with grinds in it, I almost forgot I’ve got to deal with this on a semi-regular basis.

I’ve got a bunch of theories as to what causes the grinds to make their way into my coffee, but they’re all just kind of half-thoughts, nothing conclusive. At first I had the idea that I wasn’t grinding my coffee fine enough, that after the water gets sucked up through the base of the machine, it then sprays over the basket of grinds, and since it’s all so granular and loose, it causes everything to spill out of the filter, into the pot.

So I started grinding my coffee very finely, holding down the top of the grinder until upon examination of the results, you’d never be able to tell that this dust ever came from something remotely resembling a whole bean. And nothing changed. It was still pretty decent coffee, for the most part, except that every once in a while it would still be polluted with grinds.

I don’t know what to do, or what to think either. I looked toward my various restaurant jobs to see if maybe the professionals were doing something that I wasn’t in preparing and serving large quantities of coffee. A quick tour of our coffee prep station gave me a few insights. Like, espresso is ground very finely, and you need a big espresso machine that shoots highly pressured water capable of breaching the tightly packed grounds. Drip coffee was looser, so everything could kind of make its way through the maze of bigger sized coffee crumbs.

This didn’t help at all, because like I said, I’d already tried both methods, and neither of them prevented the inevitable dirty pot. I thought back further, to the restaurant I worked at in high school. We didn’t grind our own beans. Everything came pre-ground in these vacuum packed bags. And everything worked, for the most part. The thing about this particular machine was the glass pots. Every once in a while, you’d brew a batch and a thin layer of tan foam would accumulate at the top.

“It’s the fucking coffee grinds!” my foul-mouthed but insanely good-natured boss Marcello would scream at us from across the restaurant, “You put the fucking grinds in the wrong fucking way and now there’s grinds in the fucking coffee! Throw it away! You! What are you looking at? Do something, lazy motherfucker!”

I swear, despite Marcello’s liberal use of the f-bomb, both in private and directly in front of all of his clientele, he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever worked for in my life. But even his profanity driven work ethic was unable to prevent the occasional grindy pot of coffee.

And yeah, it’s not pleasant. But what are you going to do about it? Where I work now, you can’t see if there’s a layer of foam, and aside from sticking my fingers in each cup of boiling hot coffee, there’s no way to tell if what I’m serving is untainted liquid. Every once in a while, I’ll see a hand waving in the air from the other side of the dining room. I’ll walk over and a customer will be livid, “There’s grinds in this coffee!”

And trust me, I love my coffee, so I get it. But what are you really going to do? Because there’s no guaranteed solution. When it happens to me in my house, yeah, I used to sometimes wash out the filter and run the whole pot through the machine again. Or if I didn’t feel like going through that whole ordeal, I might skim a piece of paper towel over the surface, try to catch as much particulate without absorbing my entire cup.

But even that is so much more of a hassle than I want to endure. Now I’ll just suck up as much of the grinds as I can into the first sip, and swallow them as fast as I can, before I have to feel them on my tongue, or stuck in between my teeth. Because whatever, sometimes you get grinds in your coffee. Am I going to get pissed off about it? Or expend a bunch of unnecessary energy trying to fix a really minor inconvenience? No, it’s not a big deal. It’s a cup of coffee. Hopefully tomorrow it’ll turn out a little better.