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Language is being burdened with 'fraught'

Buck reckons that something that is fraught must be fraught with something.
BY GENE OWENS For The Oklahoman Published: January 12, 2013
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The Buckboard Flats Daily Jolt published a Pittsburgh editor's column on the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, a much-decorated veteran of World War II.

The article referred to “Sen. Inouye's death this week of fraught budget negotiations.”

“My dictionary must be out of date, Buck,” said James Clark, of Ardmore. “The malady of ‘fraught budget negotiations' is not listed.”

A comma was badly needed in that sentence to show that the “fraught budget negotiations” were characteristic of the week and not of Sen. Inouye's illness. Buck would have preferred, “Sen. Inouye's death this week, in the midst of crucial budget negotiations ...”

Notice that Buck didn't use the word “fraught,” as the Pittsburgh writer did. That word comes from the same source as “freight,” and it usually carries the sense of “weighed down” or “burdened.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “filled with a specified element or elements” as in “an incident fraught with danger.” It can also mean “marked by or causing distress” as in “a fraught mother-daughter relationship.”

Buck reckons that something that is fraught must be fraught with something, but nothing in the story reveals what the budget negotiations are fraught with. The negotiations seem to have been dragged in out of the cold and placed beside Inouye's death.

“The thunder and lightning last night was a fright,” said Miss Lulabelle.

“Yeah, it fraught me, too,” said Gopher.

Gopher's language is fraught with linguistic atrocities.

Send questions for Buck to BucksEnglish@AOL.com. Please let Buck know what town you're from.