1

Please look at the following:

Dear Katharine (very dear):

I've had moments of despair during the last week which have added years to my life and put many new thoughts in my head. Always, however, I have ended on a cheerful note of hope. based on the realization that you are the person to whom I return and that you are the recurrent phrase in my life.

From Letters of E.B. White

From the context here, I think the phrase "add years to life" means that "it makes me worry and makes me feel years older" but I searched everywhere and cannot find another instance where this phrase is used with this meaning.

I have searched all dictionaries I have access to: OED, OALD, Cambridge advanced learner's dictionary, and American Heritage Dictionary, but cannot find the meaning for this phrase.

I also Googled it to try to find how it is used in different contexts. In all the cases I have found, it appears to mean "to make me live longer."

Can someone let me know:

  • can the phrase mean "it makes me feel years older?"
  • where else is it used with this meaning?

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3

When EB White wrote that the moments of despair added years to his life, he meant that they made him feel years older than his real age.

  • That’s what I guessed too, but I cannot find anything else that uses this phrase this way. Nor can i find it in the dictionaries. – Tom Bennett Mar 17 at 12:32
  • It should be noted that "add years to your life" is often used to mean that the subject item/activity can make you live longer. – Hot Licks Mar 17 at 13:02
  • I find a lot of examples that means to make life longer but haven't found another case which means to make one feel older. – Tom Bennett Mar 17 at 17:47
3

put years on someone or put years on (one) TFD idioms

To cause someone to look, act, or feel much older than they are.

As in:

I'm not even 30, but having two kids has put years on me!

  • My mother used to say "You'll put years on me!" to me and my sister. She also used to say "You'll make me drink Brobat!" Brobat is a UK brand of bleach. – Michael Harvey Mar 17 at 12:41

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