Thu 24 Jul, 2003 09:22 am
Why do people say they are anxious to do something when they really mean they are eager to do it?
I was having a conversation with a Catholic priest many years ago. I was relating to him something I wanted to learn. I told him I was eager to learn more about the topic. He acted surprised and asked me what college I had attended. I told him I had not been to college. He said he was very surprised because most people would have said they were anxious to learn about the topic.
Roberta - help!
A usage note on "Anxious" from Dictionary.com"
"Usage Note: Anxious has a long history of use roughly as a synonym for eager, but many prefer that anxious be used only when its subject is worried or uneasy about the anticipated event. In the traditional view, one may say We are anxious to see the strike settled soon but not We are anxious to see the new show of British sculpture at the museum. Fifty-two percent of the Usage Panel rejects anxious in the latter sentence. But general adoption of anxious to mean "eager" is understandable, at least in colloquial discourse, since it provides a means of adding emotional urgency to an assertion. It implies that the subject so strongly desires a certain outcome that frustration of that desire will lead to unhappiness. In this way, it resembles the informal adjective dying in sentences such as I'm dying to see your new baby."
I've always considered "eager" to be a 100% positive attitude toward the subject where "anxious" is usually unsure or negative but can be positive too.
I beg to differ. One would only be anxious to learn something if the information is potentially painful or negative. In fact, I wonder if it's even correct to say "anxious to" rather than "anxious about."
I may be dead wrong here, but I think "eager" is the word for how one feels about learning something about a topic, unless, say, it's the result of a medical test. In which case, one might say, "I had a colonoscopy yesterday, and I'm anxious about the results."
I agree with D'Art. You're anxious about something. You're eager to find out something. However, commom usage has somewhat altered how "anxious" is used. I think it's become acceptable to say that you are "anxious to hear something." I'm not crazy about it, but there it is. But "anxious" does imply something not good. You may be anxious to hear about the results of your CAT scan. But you're eager to hear about how much money you won in the lottery.