Thursday, 2 June 2011
Posted by M.H. Forsyth
I have just this second been sent an e-mail containing a word I'd never hear before: worrywart. Isn't that a lovely word? It means exactly what you'd think it means: somebody who frets too much*. It's beautifully alliterative and the OED says that it's been around since 1956, and I've just found it in a magazine from 1937. So far as I can tell, the only reason that I've never heard of worry-wart before is that it's an Americanism, but such a beautiful one.
I was told last night that worriers live longer. I'm such a carefree and debonair sort of fellow that this threw me into a panic.
Worry, by the way, originally meant to strangle, but its meaning has slowly weakened over the years until throttling has become a mere irritant. Mind you, my tie still worries me.
Which reminds me of a concrete poem by Guillaume Appolonaire. The idea of a concrete poem is simply that you write it in the shape of the subject. The following translates approximately as: The painful tie that you wear so smartly, take it off, civilised one, if you want to breathe easily.
*And I don't mean a guitarist, although guitars are highly strung.