The Grammarphobia Blog

Emotional baggage

Q: I was reading Casino Royale and came upon “emotional baggage,” a phrase I never would have expected in an Ian Fleming novel: “Women were for recreation. On a job, they got in the way and fogged things up with sex and hurt feelings and all the emotional baggage they carried around.” The Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t quote this, or any other use of “emotional baggage” before the novel’s pub date (1953). I wonder if you know of any prior uses.

A: I don’t know of any earlier usages. I checked out several of my references, including the comprehensive Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, but couldn’t find anything.

Interestingly, I did learn of an article in the journal Applied Linguistics that discusses the phrase, but I haven’t read it. The article, “The Emergence of Metaphor in Discourse,” by Lynne Cameron and Alice Deignan, is available (for a fee) through Oxford Journals. Here’s the link.

I’m not sure the OED folks were setting out to print the earliest examples of each of those “baggage” compounds (“cultural baggage,” “emotional baggage,” “intellectual baggage,” and so on). But perhaps you ought to email them with your find in case they’re interested in what they call an “ante-dating” for the phrase. Here’s a link that might be useful.

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