Look-At-Me Pet Peeve: Cost Prohibitive

Look at Me!

I’ve discovered a trend in my pet peeves. They’re generally not about “misuse” of English, or even punctuation (like unnecessary apostrophes), but about a writer suffering from “look-at-me.”

The writing is about the writer trying to sound intelligent (or clever) rather than trying to communicate.


Today’s edition: “Cost prohibitive” and its even worse cousin, “too cost prohibitive.”

For those playing at home, “cost prohibitive” means “too expensive.” The cost is so high that you cannot pay it.

This is a fun little phrase that has a place in articles where the writer is playing around and having fun. It’s fun to use it when you’re purposely enjoying being formal in a military-speak kind of way.

And, while I’m speaking of virtues, I think there are occasionally times when the phrase “too expensive” doesn’t imply the same thing as “so expensive that I’m prohibited from buying it.” Sometimes you find something too expensive, but after thinking about it, you decide to buy it anyway.

So I can see a time and place to say “cost prohibitive.” Your audience and you are enjoying the ride, and nothing very important is being said.

“Option B was cost prohibitive.”

But most of the time, if you must show the strong role that the cost is playing, you’re probably safer saying, “option B was more than we could afford.”

Or really, you can almost always go back to the slightly weaker implications of: “Option B was too expensive.”

And even worse…

We’ve just established that “cost prohibitive” means that the cost prohibits you from buying the thing. So reading that something is “too cost prohibitive,” lets me know that the writer has a bad case of “look-at-me.”

When a phrase with three words means exactly the same thing as a phrase with two words, then something’s probably wrong. In this case, what’s wrong is that the two-word phrase isn’t clear even to the writer.

And since the bloated and showy phrase wasn’t clear, the writer felt the need to augment it rather than delete it. Bad call.

And the mac-daddy

This morning, searching around to see how people use “cost prohibitive,” I found this gem as the header of a conversation thread:

Powerline finally non-cost prohibitive.

Yes. “Non-cost prohibitive” must be better than, “affordable.” (Let’s forgive the wacky hyphen. I sometimes use hyphens in a wacky way myself, so I won’t throw stones.)


Do you have any “look-at-me” pet peeves?


My earlier post: Words can say a lot about you, but don’t let them

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