They are both nouns, but the difference is one of perspective — of the view or angle from which it is felt, experienced, encountered or received.
To that end, it encapsulates the dichotomy between subjective and objective; for, the former normally refers to one’s subjective experience, the state of being or the sensation the “subject” experiences; while the latter refers to a substance — an “object” out there in the world outside of our internal, subjective sensations — which causes discomfort or a phenomena of displeasure.
An irritant may cause an annoyance, and an annoyance can be an irritant, and it is the classic distinction between the “inside” as opposed to the “outside” experience. We can refer to certain chemicals, cleaning fluids and the like as irritants, but we normally do not declare that they constitute an annoyance; although, the linguistic lines are not so strict as to prevent a person from saying, for example, “That woman’s perfume is somewhat of an annoyance”.
On the other hand, one might refer to someone’s constant manner of clearing his or her throat in mid-sentence as an “annoyance”, but because it does not directly impact one’s own physical well-being, such a quirk is likely not referred to as an “irritant”, although one may use the adjective form of the word and confide that the person’s manner is “irritating”.
In the end, the two words are somewhat similar in meaning but reveal their differences from the aspect of perspective — of whom, or from where.
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition where the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the basic elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, it is important to understand and appreciate the distinction which the U.S. Office of Personnel Management often makes between “objective” evidence and “subjective” evidence.
OPM will often twist and misapply the law, and make you think that certain medical evidence deemed “subjective” are like second-class citizens and less than credible, and will insist that only “objective” evidence is acceptable. Don’t let OPM fool you.
Contact a FERS Disability Lawyer who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement Law, and let not the ignorance of the law defeat your quest to obtain an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and don’t let the word-games irritate or annoy you.
Robert R. McGill
Lawyer exclusively representing Federal and Postal employees to secure their Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.