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concerning (adjective)

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 6:45 am
by Ken Greenwald
I was reading one of the many article that recently came out telling us that some vitamin supplements may be bad for you”:
<2007 “Vitamins Could be Killing You: Vitamin supplements designed to prevent disease might actually increase the risk of death, a landmark global study has found. Vitamin A performed worst in the 68-trial review and is said to increase mortality risk by 16 per cent. . . University of Queensland professor Luis Vitetta, from the Centre for Complementary Medicine and Research, said the results were ‘very concerning’ and added strength to evidence vitamins can do more harm than good.”—‘Daily Telegraph,’ 1 March>

To the U.S. American ear (or at least to my U.S. American ear) the use of CONCERNING as a participle adjective, as in VERY CONCERNING, is a strange-sounding locution. The only use that I am familiar with is as a preposition meaning relating to, regarding, about, as in “a discussion concerning foreign aid.”

In the Oxford English Dictionary the participle adjective is listed as having two meanings, the first of which is said to be archaic:

CONCERNING participle adjective: 1) [1649] That is of concern, that gives cause for consideration; important, weighty. archaic. 2) [1741] That gives cause for anxiety or distress.
<1741 “I cannot bear anything that is the least CONCERNING to you.”—‘Pamela’ by Richardson, II. page 158>
However, the 1741 quote is the only quote under the second meaning (apparently not considered archaic), which made me wonder just how much this form is used today. Checking a few U.S. dictionaries I found that Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary lists the participle adjective but only as archaic: giving concern, important. And Random House Unabridged Dictionary and American Heritage Dictionary don’t list it at all.

A U.K Google search for the term VERY CONCERNING produced ~ 97,000 hits; an Australia search produced ~ 15,000 hits; a New Zealand search ~ 1800. Looking at hits with respect to population, the widest use is in the U.K. which is about twice that of Australia, which is about four times that of New Zealand, which is over 200 times that of the U.S. So it is not unheard of in the U.S. but it’s relative use is mighty skimpy. In fact, in a search of U.S. newspapers, I got a paltry ~ 200 hits for newspapers dating back to the 19th century, which is bupkis (Yiddish for ‘beans,’ but, ultimately, according to my grandfather who came from the old country, it meant ‘goat shit’).

So, my conclusion is that although the participle adjective CONCERNING, as in VERY CONCERNING, is deemed archaic or even obsolete by by some U.S. dictionaries, it is still used here but ever so little. In the U.K., however, and according to the OED, it is not archaic and seems to be fairly common but less so in Australia and New Zealand.. But folks living in these countries might have a better feel for this than I do.

For the benefit of those who, as myself, are unfamiliar with the use of CONCERNING in this way, here are some more examples (including one’s from the U.S., but one never knows if the person using it here is native born) that I found in newspaper archives:
<2001 “"It's VERY CONCERNING," said Travis Vallin, director of the Colorado Division of Aeronautics. "Without a doubt, rural airports, small community airports, are hurting. Without a doubt, it's VERY CONCERNING." ‘Denver Post,’ 29 October>

<2003 “How can something like this occur in this day and age, in the year 2003, where it seems that an inmate can simply pop a window out of the prison, climb out and run away? Lupas said ‘That’s very alarming, very discouraging and VERY CONCERNING to me.”—‘Intelligencer’ (Doylestown, Pennsylvania),12 October, page 117>

<2006 “There is a lot of intelligence that requires investigation, some of it is very sinister. It is a VERY CONCERNING intelligence picture - that is the simple and honest way of putting it."—‘Telegraph,’ 7 May

<2006 “In the run-up to the first anniversary of the July 7 bombings, Peter Clarke, the head of the anti-terrorist branch, said intelligence surrounding the terrorist threat was ‘very, VERY CONCERNING.’”—‘Guardian,’ 3 July>
Ken G – March 21, 2007

concerning (adjective)

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 7:15 am
by Erik_Kowal
To my British English ear, 'concerning' in this sense means 'worrying or disquieting to the point of requiring remedial action'.

concerning (adjective)

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 8:32 am
by gdwdwrkr
Concerning 'very concerning' I'm disconcerted.

concerning (adjective)

Posted: Fri Mar 23, 2007 10:11 am
by Edwin Ashworth
What's the nationality of your other ear, Erik?

concerning (adjective)

Posted: Fri Mar 23, 2007 10:24 am
by Erik_Kowal
Good question, Edwin. The ear I mentioned got a double dose of nationality, so to balance things out the other one is stateless.

concerning (adjective)

Posted: Fri Mar 23, 2007 2:00 pm
by Ken Greenwald
Gentlemen, And thus was born the EARMARK as a visual aid to help distinguish the nationality, or the lack thereof, of one ear from the other!
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Ken - March 23, 2007

concerning (adjective)

Posted: Fri Mar 23, 2007 3:37 pm
by Erik_Kowal
Congress's role in fixing earmarks makes the current immigration debate in the US very relevant. (Do I hear "Hear, hear" here?)

concerning (adjective)

Posted: Sat Mar 24, 2007 12:04 am
by Edwin Ashworth
Would Van Gogh have been allowed in?

concerning (adjective)

Posted: Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:47 am
by Erik_Kowal
He might first have needed to canvass support from Congress's legislative framers -- to gain their ear, in other words.

concerning (adjective)

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 9:49 pm
by Edwin Ashworth
I wouldn't trust any of them. I bet Mark Antony never returned any of the ears he borrowed - and if any Roman complained, he'd never hear the end of it.

One day, there will be a war fought over a severed ear.

concerning (adjective)

Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:08 pm
by Erik_Kowal
Fortunately, Roy Jenkins died with both ears still intact.

concerning (adjective)

Posted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 8:54 am
by Edwin Ashworth
Otherwise he'd have been demoted to Vice-Roy.

concerning (adjective)

Posted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 7:13 am
by Erik_Kowal
The Slit Vicious of his day, perhaps, partaking of a slice of vice?

Which reminds me that when the so-called Gang of Four broke away from Britain's Labour Party to form the SDP in 1981, one of my friends (a Glaswegian) declared that he would "never vote for they headbangers". The notion of Roy Jenkins as a 'headbanger' has never sat very easily with me.

concerning (adjective)

Posted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 9:31 pm
by Edwin Ashworth
Mind you, the Gang of Four were nothing without Timmy the Dog after he'd gone solo.

concerning (adjective)

Posted: Fri Oct 05, 2007 6:09 am
by Ken Greenwald
In this week's Science News in big bold letters I found the following article title:
<2007 “CLEARLY CONCERNING – Do common plastics and resins carry risks?”—‘Science News,’ 29 September, Vol. 172, No. 13, page 202> [[And for the curious the answer is yes. One more nail in our coffin on that ever-growing list of nails.]]
The author of the article is senior editor Janet Raloff, and as far as I know she’s not from the U.K. and has been writing for Washington, D.C.-based Science News for eons. This is a rare example of my running into this usage in a U.S. publication without having had to go out hunting for it as I did in my above posting. But it certainly did immediately grab my attention because it does sounds so odd to my U.S.-trained ear.
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Ken G – October 4, 2007