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I was writing a bit just now and found myself typing the word "flusteredness", which gets the meaning across but is rather awkward and decidedly non-standard.

Is there a more common or natural word that means roughly the same thing?

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  • 1
    1) I was feeling "flustered". 2) I was feeling all "flustery!" 3) I was in SUCH a "flustered" state! Apr 17 '14 at 21:34

14 Answers 14

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Instead of saying something like “Pat had noticed my frequent flusteredness. . .” you could use:

  • “agitation”
  • “bewilderment”
  • “befuddlement”
  • “discombobulation”
  • “disquiet”

There’s also “dithers” and “tizzies” to consider for different constructions.

I’m rather fond of “discombobulation” if I had to pick just one.

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  • 1
    I think "discombobulation" is the closest in meaning to all the suggestions I've seen. Thanks!
    – StrixVaria
    Apr 18 '14 at 18:14
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One obvious noun for "the state of being flustered" is ... flustration. Writing in the late nineteenth century, Farmer & Henley, in Slang and Its Analogues (1893), list it as being "old and colloquial":

FLUSTRATION, subs. (old and colloquial).—Heat; excitement; bustle; confusion; FLURRY [in the sense of "agitation"].

[Example] 1771. Smollet, Humphrey Clinker, I., 126 "Being I was in such a flustration."

[Example] 1843. Major Jones' Courtship, viii, "The old woman's been in a monstrous flustration 'bout the comet."

[Example] 1847. Porter, Quarter Race, etc., p. 177. "My wife is in a delicut way, and the frite might cause a flustration."

[Example] 1848. Jones, Studies of Travel, p.21. "The old woman was in such a flustration that she didn't know her lips from anything else."

[Example] 1872. Mortimer Collins, Two Plunges for a Pearl, vol. II, ch. vii. "Then was this pretty little actress whom he admired in a great state of flustration."

The word remains in use today, but it has never escaped the ignominy of being excluded by, for example, the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary series. Owing to its status as a word not in good standing, it can be damaging to the credibility of people who use it in serious writing—people like Martin Loosemore, in his book, Crisis Management in Construction Projects (2000):

When parties abuse their illegitimate power, weaker parties, who may be in the right, suffer unduly. This causes malevolence, flustration, and the potential for conflict. Try to ensure fairness in the bargaining process.

On the other hand, there is something quite evocative in this comment from William Gormley, Jr., The Politics of Public Utility Regulation (1983):

What then, can we conclude about the politics of public utility regulation? It is a visible process that frustrates participants who lack political support. It is a technical process that frustrates participants who lack expertise. It is an expensive process that frustrates participants who lack resources. It is a controversial process that frustrates participants who make authoritative decisions. In the patois of the deep South, the politics of public utility regulation is the politics of "flustration."

It may be tempting to read flustration here as being simply a regionalism for frustration, but I think it is perhaps more accurately viewed as an amalgam of two notions: being frustrated and being flustered.

If you fear the ill effects of using flustration (and I certainly would), you might opt instead for pother, which Merriam-Webster's accepts as being a word above suspicion, and which means much the same thing as flustration, to judge from its entry in the Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003):

pother n [origin unknown] (1591) 1 a : confused or fidgety flurry or activity : COMMOTION b : agitated talk or controversy over a trivial matter 2 : a choking cloud of dust or smoke 3 : mental turmoil.

Definitions 1a and 3 seem most on point here.

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  • Why would one use flustration instead of the simpler fluster? I’m trying to think whether there is some difference between them. Your most recent citation (2000) almost looks like an error for frustration.
    – tchrist
    Apr 18 '14 at 1:51
  • I upvoted your answer, tchrist, because fluster is an even more obvious noun than flustration (or pother); nevertheless, I can't recall ever having heard a person say, "I'm in a fluster." Perhaps most people tend to avoid using a noun form for this state, and build around the verb fluster or the adjective flustered instead. I can think of three reasons why a person might prefer flustration to other options: They like its colloquial tone; they like the echo of "frustration" that attends it; or it's the normal word that people around them use to describe the state of being flustered.
    – Sven Yargs
    Apr 18 '14 at 2:13
  • Don't use "pother" if you expect all English-speakers to recognise it though. It's obscure. Not that rarity is the same thing as obscurity, but: books.google.com/ngrams/… Apr 18 '14 at 11:40
  • @SvenYargs: someone doing a camp comedy act would say "oooh, I'm all in a fluster" at the drop of a hat. I feel like I'd be more likely to hear it in conversation from my grandparents than my peers, but I can't back that up with anything. Apr 18 '14 at 11:44
  • I am shocked that flustration is over 10 years old. I would have thought for sure it would be a recent neologism.
    – Patrick M
    Apr 18 '14 at 15:53
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Disconcertment and Discomposure (antonym of composure: what you would lose in a flustered state) would be good alternatives to "flusteredness"

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It's less common than its use as a verb, but "fluster" can be used as a noun to refer to the state. It's most commonly used in the phrase "in a fluster".

4

Depending on context, you might try tizzy. It's a bit lighthearted but fits the bill.

tizzy |ˈtizē| noun (pl. tizzies) [ in sing. ] informal

a state of nervous excitement or agitation: he got into a tizzy and was talking absolute nonsense.

Most of the suggestions here seem to relate more to pure confusion, but a tizzy is just as likely to result from surprise, even at an event that should have been expected.

2

I think the noun you may be looking for is panic.

2

I would say that you are extremely perturbed (perturbation).

a disposition that is confused or nervous and upset


A common phrase would be that you are in a state of disarray.

a situation in which people are very confused or things are not organized, especially because something unexpected has happened

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Consider "flutter."

flutter: a state of nervous excitement or mental agitation.

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The expression that comes immediately to mind is 'In a tizz'

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  • This is an adjectival phrase. The OP is looking for a noun. Apr 19 '14 at 12:24
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Please consider also : Confusion, Nervousness and Agitation

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Confused, discombobulated, flummoxed, gobsmacked, at sixes and sevens, in a state of thesauruslessness

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    I don't think the forms of the words you've represented here would be usable; I suspect OP is attempting to use a possessive form i.e. In his flusteredness [sic]". I think you would agree that none of the forms of the words you have here are applicable
    – kolossus
    Apr 17 '14 at 21:42
  • Confusion and discombobulation work fairly well though.
    – Patrick M
    Apr 18 '14 at 15:52
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The most obvious answer is to use fluster as a noun. It derives from verb, and per the OED means:

A confused or agitated state of mind; a flurry, flutter.

It provides as one of its citations this example:

  • 1863 Mrs. C. Clarke Shaks. Char. viii. 209 — All this fluster may have arisen from a horror of the steward.

So you could say that a flustered person was “all in a fluster”.

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Clusterfuck (noun) The whole thing is nothing but a clusterfuck.

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  • Great expression; NOT to be used in formal writing, but it fits. Could you provide a definition, a link or quote for completeness' sake?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 19 '14 at 7:14
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    I think that term describes a state of things, or an outcome, whereas "flustered" is a state of mind or behaviour.
    – Senex
    Apr 19 '14 at 16:33
-1

Flustered is already a state. You don't need to add -ment or -ness to it again.

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    Flustered is not a noun, which is what I would need without rewriting the sentence. I should have made this clearer.
    – StrixVaria
    Apr 17 '14 at 21:33

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