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Anal Retentive - Origin

Posted by ESC on March 28, 2001

In Reply to: Anal Retentive - Origin posted by ESC on March 28, 2001

: : : : I believe the term refers to an infant who retains his/her excrement for fear of soiling his/her diaper.

: : : From memories of Psych 101 circa 1967:

: : : Parents who are very strict with their children when it comes to toilet training and who disapprove of soiling will produce an anal retentive offspring. This offspring person will be very neat and concerned about order and cleanliness. Any psych students out there to give more detail?

: : I'm not a psych student, but I've copy-edited lots of writings in psychology. In psychoanalytic theory, a cluster of traits grouped under the anal-retentive heading, including compulsiveness and miserliness, is said to result from conflicts experienced by a child at the stage when adults start demanding that the poop be put in the potty.

: : For a modified, updated, and intuition-friendly version of this theory, a good book is "Childhood and Society" by Erik Erikson.

: If I'd been harsh with my children regarding potty training, they would be neat and orderly? So that's where I went wrong!

: Does anyone remember the Saturday Night Live skit -- the Anal Retentive Chef? He never completed a recipe because he was obsessive about cubing the veggies just the right size, etc.

ANAL RETENTIVE - "adj., n. (someone) displaying excessive orderliness and parsimony, interpreted by psychoanalysts as the result of fixation at the anal phase of development (see ANAL) . By the end of the century it had become an all-purpose term of abuse for a tidy, mean, or up-tight person. 1984: 'Sue Townsend: My mother said, 'You're an anal retentive, aren't you?' and my father said, 'You're tight-fisted, and you've always got your perfectly groomed head in a book.'"

ANAL - "adj of the second stage of Freud's suggested process of libidinal development (lasting from about the age of eighteen months to three years), dominated by toilet training; hence, displaying character traits thought to result from fixation at this age, such as obsessive orderliness, parsimony; or obstinacy."

From "20th Century Words: The Story of New Words in English Over the Last 100 Years" by John Ayto (Oxford University Press, New York, 1999).

Sorry I took so long to post this. I kept typing it over and over so it would be perfect.