Peers of my generation who attended college or graduate school in the 60’s and 70’s were subjected to strains of Freudian analysis in every academic discipline, no matter that Freudian analysis was the product of social science. In literary criticism, we had Freudian analysis or interpretation of stories and poems. In history, scholars bantered about Freudian theories to explain why certain historical figures did the things they did. When we misspoke accidentally, we were guilty of a Freudian slip.

Sigmund Freud, to whom I am indebted for this post's creative fodder.

Sigmund Freud, to whom I am indebted for this post’s creative fodder.

My favorite Freudian term, though was anal retentive. The term came to mind a few days ago in a high-fallutin’ meeting of academicians when one highly educated gentleman (Ph.D., of my generation) jokingly confessed that he was anal retentive in the manner about which he did his work. Everyone laughed, but I thought: Considering exactly what that term literally suggests, why would anybody confess? Isn’t to proclaim oneself anal retentive suggestive of saying remarks such as…

“Hey, dude, I’m not about to cut loose of my feces.”
or
“My anal sphincter is pinched so tight it hurts.”
or
“I’ve got this freaky hang-up: I enjoy the feeling of being constipated.”

No, I don’t think I want to make jokes about being anal retentive.

Something else: If anal retentive is one end of the continuum of whatever set of personality traits defined by the term, what is the opposite end of that same continuum? Anal effusive? Hmmmmm, that’s scary.

And if anal retention is the noun form and anal retentive the adjectival form, what are the other grammatical variations?

the verbal form: anal retaining
the adverbial form: anally retentive or anal retentively
the infinitive: to anally retain
the past participial: anally retained
the superlative: most anally retained
the present participial: anally retaining

Advertisements