My daughter said "These photographs are concerning". Her intention was to convey that they were disconcerting, or alarming in some way. My impulse was to correct her, but then I doubted myself and thought that perhaps this is a legitimate use of the word. The two online dictionaries I looked in don't have secondary definition that fits the bill, so, I'm now once again reasonably certain that my impulse was correct, but I'd be curious what you folks think.

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    Little as I like it, it has become a common use, and one to which no reasonable exception can be taken. [grump grump] – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 31 '13 at 16:07

One of the OED’s definitions of the adjective concerning is

That gives cause for anxiety or distress.

That would seem to cover your daughter’s use. Whether using the word in this way is an effective means of expressing her meaning is another matter.

  • This meaning, while rarer than the meaning ‘regarding’, is quite simply derived from the secondary meaning of the verb ‘concern’ itself. If you can say, “These pictures trouble me” and turn that into, “These pictures are troubling”, then you can also do the same with, “These pictures concern me” (in the sense that they disconcert you, not in the sense that they deal with you), turning it into, “These pictures are concerning”. Like you, though, I too would probably have raised an eyebrow and gone, “Huh?” if someone used the word in that way to me. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 31 '13 at 10:45
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet Whoa! That's asking for trouble! "These pictures show me." "These pictures depict me." "These pictures really cost me." "Those pictures hide me." Different senses are not guaranteed to continue across word class boundaries (and I'd call these -ing forms participial adjectives) or even to more closely related word-forms. Compare the contrast between This is a fine scheme with He's a real schemer. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 31 '13 at 13:34
  • ‘Concern’ and ‘trouble’ are semantically (almost) identical. Of course you can’t just randomly pick any transitive verb to fill in. My point was precisely that in the sense used by the asker’s daughter, ‘concerning’ is not the regular adjective ‘concerning’, but an ad-hoc adjective derived from the present participle of the verb. Such derivations are quite transparent, and they (unlike established derivations) do bring along the sense of the source to the derivation. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 31 '13 at 13:43
  • @EdwinAshworth Whether or not the sense is guaranteed to continue, in this case the sense has continued; I've encountered concerning in this sense since the mid-1990s. The possible collision of senses seems to be mitigated in use: I've heard this only as a predicate adjective, never as a preposed attributive. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 31 '13 at 16:03
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    @StoneyB: I've no problem with this sense of 'concerning' - I was querying the reasoning 'If you can say, “These pictures trouble me” and turn that into, “These pictures are troubling”, then you can also do the same with, “These pictures concern me”. Try 'If you can say, “These children are exhausting” and turn that into, “These children exhaust me”, then you can also do the same with, “These children are demanding”. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 31 '13 at 16:23

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