The first glimmers of fraught without even a hint of an object start appearing in the 1920s and ’30s. The earliest example I’ve found so far comes from a 1925 serialized story by Henry Leyford Gates about a flapper named Joanna. In one installment Gates writes, “It was Joanna who at last broke the fraught silence.” The lyrical phrase fraught silence, perhaps evoking pregnant pause, shows up again in books from 1934, 1946 and 1958. Another early use is in George O’Neil’s 1931 novel about the poet John Keats, “Special Hunger”: “For Keats this was a singularly fraught circumstance.” Circumstances, along with anxiety-ridden situations, issues and relationships, would soon become familiar companions for fraught.
from “On Language: Fraught” in the New York Times
Etymology is a theme in my life this week. People are coming to me with new words. Mondegreen. Interrobang. I read Anne Carson’s Nox which is, on one side (the left), a lexicographical study of each individual word in a latin poem. I’m very focused on single words or phrases. I need to be thinking longer. Full length story. Novel! But I just keep falling in love with tidbits.
Someone found my blog today by searching for “it wasn’t true what they said about bees.” I love that line from a Lorrie Moore story. When I like a story or a poem or a letter, or even something someone wrote to me on the gchat it usually has to do with a word or a small string of them. Or the way someone punctuated something. I love creative punctuation. Or lack of. I love the pause. And the ramble.
I need to remind myself though that writing cannot always be word for word perfect. Because if I stay focused on that, I am never going to get anywhere.