Date: Thu, 18 Jun 1998 18:30:16 EDT
From: Ron Butters
Subject: Re: "concerning," adj.

My intuitions are exactly the same as Jesse's--except that I hadn't noticed
the construction. The example that the person sent him sounds weird to
me--but, oddly enough, the other examples don't. "This is very concerning to
me" NOW sounds like something I might say myself. Maybe this is just a usage
that is really easy to pick up on. What an oddity!!!!

Or could it be that the use of the progressive with CONCERN sounds weird in
the past but not the present or conditional? Consider:

I am walking to the store right now [speaking into a cell phone]
I would be walking to the store (if I hadn't broken my leg)
*I was walking to the store yesterday.

In a message dated 6/18/98 3:07:41 PM, you wrote:

<Word of the Day page at Random House asking about the
sentence "That nodule was very concerning to me,"
reportedly dictated by a doctor to a typist. OED has
_concerning_ ppl.a. in the sense 'that is of concern;
weighty' from 1649 but marked archaic, and in the sense
'causing anxiety or distress; worrisome' (the sense
used here) with a single example from Richardson in

I responded that the use seemed quite unidiomatic, and
forgot all about it.

In the last few months I've recorded several more
examples of this:

1997 [exchange between author and book publicist, 23
Dec.:] "I haven't been able to find a copy in a bookstore."
"That's very concerning."

1998 N.Y. Times (June 13) A6: It's concerning because not
only did he determine that the interviews in the case
were improper, he determined that the children could not

1998 N.Y. doctor, age ca35-40 (17 June): It's only if you
had an uneven pulse, or really strong palpitations, that
it would be more concerning.

By now I'm not even sure that it sounds unusual, but
I'll chalk that up to heightened sensitivity to the
usage. Has anyone else noticed this use, or an increase
in its frequency? Jim, does Merriam have anything useful
on this?

Thanks for any input.

Jesse Sheidlower
Random House