Agita – agitation, acid stomach, or both?

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

In my post about website design anxiety, I really wanted to use what I thought was a Yiddish idiom to convey the sense of gut-wrenching agitation the challenge invokes in me, but the word escaped me. It turns out AGITA is the word I wanted, and my search brings up a few thoughts about the internet, Merriam-Webster, and the changing nature of research.

First, thanks to my friend and Nia instructor Richele Corbo for answering the question when I posed it on Facebook. (I also ended the last post with my query, but no one’s come up with the answer here.) “Aggitah!!” Richele wrote. I’d tried adgena, agina and other similar combinations, and consulted lists of Yiddish idioms to no avail, but no wonder I couldn’t find it – it’s of southern Italian origin.

Playing around with the spelling, I tried my huge old Webster’s Unabridged without success, but I finally found “agita” on Google. One definition came from a medical site:

Agita: heartburn, acid indigestion, an upset stomach or by extension, a general feeling of upset. Italian American slang, from Italian “agitare” meaning “to agitate.”

The online Merriam-Webster’s had the word as well, along with the date 1982, suggesting this was when the word was added. They even had an aural application giving the correct pronunciation aloud. 

Agita: S. Italian dial. pron. of Italian acido, literally heartburn, acid from Latin acidus, therefore a feeling of agitation or anxiety.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

So one source claims the word is rooted in agitation, the other in acid. But both agree on the confluence of anxiety and indigestion as well as the Italian origin. It took Richele, who’s of Jewish origin but married into an Italian family, to come up with the link I needed. Here I could wax rhapsodic about our wonderful American melting pot and how it’s enriched our language, but I’d rather focus on the word itself, and how I can now use it with confidence to describe that physical and psychological state that arises from too many hours spent trying to decipher new computer programs. (If you want a fair facsimile, try overdosing on caffeine or trying the wrong antidepressant. Or, come to think of it, those pharmaceuticals I experimented with back in the sixties – but we won’t go there.)

My exploration of agita also reinforces what my husband always says when we try unsuccessfully to prune our book collection: there’s no need to hang onto outdated research materials, because it’s easier to find what you want on line, and the paper versions simply clutter up the house. But does this mean we’ll throw out our entire collection of dictionaries and reference books? I wouldn’t bet on it.

How about you? Do you suffer from agita? And have you been pruning your collection of old-fashioned printed reference materials? Or do you think that’s meshugana?


4 thoughts on “Agita – agitation, acid stomach, or both?

    • I find Blogger really annoying – it seems to discriminate against me because I use WordPress. It’s especially aggravating when you write a long thoughtful comment and it gets lost. Sometimes using the simplest sign-in helps – the one where it says name/url.

  1. Speaking of computer-generated agita, yesterday I published this post and then it inexplicably disappeared. When I went back to my blog, my previous post came up at the top and this one was nowhere to be found. That’s never happened before.

    Fortunately, WordPress had saved it as a draft, but without the pictures and tags I’d inserted, so I had to do those over again; then I published it uneventfully. I’m wondering if conceivably it flagged the word “agita” as something possibly Arabic and security-related? When I was Googling various related spellings, pretty much everything it turned up related to proper names of Middle Eastern origins.

    Another agita-related question: when you read my blog, does WordPress throw up those annoying “Snap” images that take you away from the website? They came up yesterday when my husband was checking out my blog, and I’m wondering if they’re a problem for anyone else and if so, whether I can do anything about them. I’d appreciate your feedback!

  2. Yes, they do, Julie–they’re like a fly in front of your face that you just want to wave your hand and shoo away.
    To respond to your other question–I have weeded out a LOT of cookbooks, only keeping special ones, because it’s so easy to get a zillion recipes for anything online. Someone even told me about a site where you could ask for a recipe to combine specific ingredients you had, but I’ve forgotten what it was called.

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