Here's another phrase I hear in US TVs and Films, but take for granted... What's the etymology of the idiom "anally retentive", and how did it become synonymous with being pedantic?
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According to Wikipedia, which does a much more thorough job of explaining than I will, the term comes from the psychological work of Dr. Sigmund Freud. Freud postulated that the anal stage of development, or that regarding toilet training, could have a profound effect on the later personality of a child.
The term anal-retentive refers to the retention, in later life, of such behaviors associated with the anal stage. These behaviors include:
The term to describe those people who reject these characteristics is anal-expulsive.
Per Wikipedia. In the psychology of Freud, the anal stage is said to follow the oral stage of infant or early-childhood development. This is a time when an infant's attention moves from oral stimulation to anal stimulation (usually the bowels but occasionally the bladder), usually synchronous with learning to control his or her excretory functions, a time of toilet training. Freud theorized that children who experience conflicts during this period of time may develop "anal" personality traits, namely those associated with a child's efforts at excretory control: orderliness, stubbornness, a compulsion for control. Although "anal rententive" survives in common usage, the concept is not taken very seriously by psychoanalysts today. Chicago psychoanalyst Robert Galatzer-Levy speaks of how this theory of Freud is mostly a product of its time when indoor plumbing was new and less numerous per household, and families were large, causing "much more control of defecation than was necessary in a world of chamber pots and outhouses." If these qualities continue into later life, the person is said to be "anal-retentive". Conversely, those who reject anal-retentive characteristics are said to have "anal-expulsive" personality types. Although Freud's theories on early childhood have been influential on the psychological community, research suggests that the overall pattern of parental attitudes has a much more concrete effect on how an infant will grow up. There is no conclusive research linking anal stage conflicts with "anal" personality types.