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?
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.