“Fraught”

Seven Months In
August 16, 2017

“Fraught”

I’ve recently noticed a marked increase in the use of the word “fraught” in news items and editorials, among other places.  It seems to be making quite a comeback in popular journalism.  I’m quite familiar with the word, as it commonly appears in literature, but I don’t remember it showing up that much in common parlance.

Here’s what bothers me: it doesn’t seem to be used correctly most of the time.  Specifically, I frequently see it used without an explanatory prepositional phrase.

Wondering if I was completely bonkers in this, I looked up the word “fraught” in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Eleventh Edition).  As it happens, I was partially right.  Here’s the definition (in relevant part):

1 archaic a : LADEN b : well supplied or provided   2 : full of or accompanied by something specified—used with with   3 : causing or characterized by emotional distress or tension : UNEASY

So, for instance, I recently read an article that said, “It’s also morally and politically fraught.”  (That sentence is from
a recent article by Jonah Goldberg, who is one of my heroes, so I criticize him with great trepidation.)  The statement, in context, is talking about how we view a fetus.  And that view is, in fact, “morally and politically fraught” . . . with something.  With what?  Danger?  Anxiety?  Comedy?  Emotional distress or tension?  Can something be politically fraught with emotional distress?  I suppose it could, but it just sounds awkward to me.  I would like to see more explanatory prepositional phrases—use of the word “with.”
Apropos of nothing.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled life.

Scott
Scott Gosnell founded Pros and Cons in 2003. He also has a day job as a practicing attorney in Birmingham, Alabama, which explains his complete irresponsibility with regards to his blogging schedule. In a former life he worked in several churches as a youth minister, where he was forced to do unspeakable things like chew ABC gum (Already Been Chewed), bob for liver (uncooked), and participate in condiment wrestling. Hey, would you look at that – I guess they are speakable. In addition to the practice of law, Scott is a certified law enforcement officer with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and the Alabama Historical Ironworks Commission, and a tactical firearms instructor. Scott and his wife, Donna, have three children, Caleb, Hannah Beth, and Austin. He also has a dog named Sierra and a cell phone named Curtis.

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