Thursday, November 16, 2017



Recent harassment disclosures seem to get uglier the deeper we dig. These are significant disclosures & spark significant emotion, but we Americans aren’t famous for our facility with emotional vocabulary. This week’s Wordmonger post asks, What are you really feeling about all this?

Our default word tends to be angry. Dictionaries tells us anger is a broad term which implies emotional agitation of no specified intensity, aroused by great displeasure. That doesn’t quite nail my emotional response to all this, so here are some options:

Fury is an overwhelming rage of a frenzied nature, bordering on madness. 

When we feel upset we’re experiencing an emotional toppling or disorganization.

Ire suggests that our anger & wrath are transforming into keen resentment.

When we are vexed, we are troubled, annoyed, irritated, & disturbed.

Wrath is deep indignation expressing itself in a desire to punish or extract revenge.

When we are enraged we experience uncontrolled anger that often results in violence.

Indignation is righteous anger aroused by what is considered unjust, mean, or shameful.

Smoldering means fully or partially suppressed rage and fury.

When we are incensed we are spitefully or furiously angry.

And rage is a violent outburst of anger unleashed through a loss of self control.

I’m hoping you readers will use the comments section to identify the emotions you’re experiencing in response to recent harassment disclosures. Even better — suggest how our society can constructively respond to all this.

Big thanks to this week’s sources: the OED, Merriam Webster, & Wordnik, Collins Dictionary

& the 1959 Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language.


  1. It's interesting that a number of these have to do with fire. Not only does the blood heat up, but we feel consumed by it, and not able to control it. And of course we need to learn to "cool"down. I wonder if we taught anger management in schools if we might keep the rage explosions down?

    1. Interesting idea, Anne. Perhaps I should look into idioms based around "cool" & "warm". And as to anger management in schools, for some time a bunch of us English teachers were pressuring the powers that be to put more energy into teaching emotional vocabulary, which we hoped might help folks parse emotions.

  2. I'm going to land on indignation. It's interesting that most of these definitions involve a loss of emotional control. I like Anne's idea of teaching anger management in school. There is some in earlier grades when kids are taught to breathe and count to 10 when they are mad. Sad that we don't keep that up in middle school when they really need the reminder. I think your silent reading time in class gave them some much needed quiet reflection time which probably helped them catch their breath.

    1. Hey Heather -- good to hear from you. And thanks, I think silent reading time is highly undervalued in schools & in society at large. Your "counting to ten" comment makes me think of a time I was waiting to see my elementary school boss, but the principal's door was closed & a sound like jogging elephants came from the office. The secretary & I raised our eyebrows at one another, the thumping stopped, and laughter rang out. The principal emerged with a smiling kindergartener who had gone in angry. The principal said, "You know, sometimes you just need to stomp."

  3. It seems to me that it is too soon to expect a widespread "cure." We are just now realizing how rampant the problem of abuse toward women is, sort of like the discovery of a symptom. Yes, years of research has shown this, but the public doesn't internalize or even accept research results as anything that needs addressing. When famous and/or powerful people are caught, then the public is more likely to wake up. Maybe even consider it a pandemic. That's when cultural change can happen. Until then, we're left to punishing the individual perp. Maybe if this stuff had come out before the 2016 election, Trump wouldn't be president.

  4. Ahoy Esteban -- Good thoughts, & I agree we've got a long way to go. Here's hoping all this ugliness will help nudge us toward reasonableness.

  5. Indignation works for me. Anger and disgust in one word. I have a hard time imagining that people were not aware of how widespread this abuse is. Almost every woman I know has a story. Sadly, I don't see it ending soon unless we can teach our girls to have a greater sense of power. It is about power.

    1. I'm with you, Christine -- indignation is a pretty good label for my response. It intrigues me that none of the definitions that result in action result in positive action. We need a new word for "I'm indignant as hell & now I'm going to do something constructive about it."