Tag Archive | research

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?