March 09, 2004

Don't worry of it

The headline on this NYT version of an AP story reads "Roe V. Wade Author Was Worried of Politics". The headline writer means "worried about politics", as the lede makes clear:

As the 1992 presidential election approached, the author of the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade ruling worried that there were no longer enough votes on the court to uphold the right to abortion -- and that his ideological opposites on the court would play politics with the issue.

The usage "be worried of X" for "be worried about X" strikes me as the sort of thing that a non-native speaker would write. However, a web search shows that it's a staple of headline writers:

Diplomat Worried of U.S. Plans for Cuba (Miami Herald/AP)
Officer worried of personal liability (Topeka Capitol-Journal)
Brazil Worried of Aid to Colombia (AP)

Not all the examples are from headlines. This one is from Dave Farber's "interesting people" list -- and I know that Dave is a native English speaker:

Customers' Coffee Talk Heard [ and you worried of the FBI listening .. djf]

Some other examples, from apparently native writing, including the (to me completely impossible) "Don't worry of it":

I'm worried of what my friends will say.
Mary, please, don't worry of it. Take care of yourself.
Well, no sense worrying of it more.

It's amazing to me that at the age of 56, I can still learn a new subcategorization frame for a common verb of my native language -- though I've documented other examples in this space, for instance here. It's possible that "worry of" is a regional thing, like positive anymore or "close the lights". It does seem to be new -- at least all the OED's examples of worry (in the new-fangled meaning "give way to anxiety" rather than the traditional meaning "strangle" or "suffocate") have "worry about", not "worry of". But anyhow, I've somehow missed out on this simple and useful usage.

Posted by Mark Liberman at March 9, 2004 09:23 PM