Friday, 7 March 2014

On Worts and Warts, Particularly The Kind Who Worry


I am one.  A worry wort.  Or is that worry wart?  I'm glad you asked.  I too love to know about the origin of words and expressions.

Here is what I know:

Wort is a term used and applied to plants that were believed to have medicinal or healing purposes.  The naming was sometimes a bit overly hopeful since the plant named lungwort was called thus due to its leaves looking like lungs.  From this came the idea that it must be meant for healing lung problems.

Other plants with wort in their name are used effectively for treatments and St John's Wort is a plant used for treatment of mild depression.

I can see where a plant used for depression might end up with the nickname worrywort, though I have found no evidence yet that it did.

 A cartoon character who caused worry, trouble and strife everywhere he went, was created by J.R. Williams and named Worry Wart

I can find no evidence of it, but I think this is either a misunderstanding on the part of the cartoonist about how to spell wort, or a brilliant play on words.  I prefer the brilliant play on words theory.  A wart is an annoying blight.  His character Worry Wart caused worry everywhere he went rather than curing worry as the plant called worry wort/ St John's Wort might have.

So why I am  delving into this particular etymology today?  Well, because I am a worry wort and although I would like to think I am wort in the sense that I can cure others of their strife, I only mean it in the sense that I worry a lot, which is the meaning the expression has come to carry these days.  I am a worrier. 

Some things I worry about:

Did I accidentally hurt someone with something I said?
Did I accidentally hurt someone with something I did?
Are the people I love and care about safe?
Have I made myself clear and understood?

What this looks like in real life:

Oh no, I have decided to grow my hair out and that means no visits to the hair salon for awhile and that new hair stylist I found who I really like is going to think I dumped him.

Oh no, that (really minor and probably insignificant) thing I said may not have come across the right way and that is the reason my friend hasn't called in a week.

Oh no, he is late getting home from work so clearly he must have been hit by a car!

This is who I am.  One of the things I no longer worry about is how my worrying comes across to other people.  I worry because I care.  I care deeply.  And that is something I would not change about myself even if there is some wort for that.



  1. Now I am really NOT a worrier! I would find those all those anxious thoughts exhausting, which makes me sound rather callous and uncaring, but it's the truth! I find I am able to put worries to one side, in a very deliberate mental manoeuvre, especially if there is nothing I can actively do about them. xxx

  2. I don't think it makes you sound callous. I am rather specific about the kinds of things I worry about, but there are things I do not worry about which others would. Not being a worrier does not mean not caring. We all show our caring in different ways. To me you come across as confident, kind, outgoing and fun. I attempted that mental manoeuvre once and for a whole year drove my ex nuts by saying all the time "the world will not end because of that."


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