Q: At the risk of being thought priggish, but prompted by your discussion of the proper prepositions for use with “squeamish,” what are your thoughts on the current popularity of the phrase “bored of”? Example: “I’m bored of this—let’s change the channel.”
A: When a preposition follows “bored,” it’s normally “with” or “by.” So the usual construction would be “I’m bored with this” or “I’m bored by this.”
In standard usage, we generally aren’t bored “of” or “over” or “about” or “from” something.
The verb “bore,” the noun “bore,” and the adjective “bored” showed up in English in the 18th and 19th centuries, according to published references in the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED describes the etymologies of these three words as unknown.
John Ayto’s Dictionary of Word Origins says the noun (meaning tiresomeness) suddenly appeared “on the scene as a sort of buzzword of the 1760s, from no known source.”
Ayto adds that “the explanation most commonly offered for its origin” is that the word “bore” that refers to tedium is derived from the much older word “bore” that refers to making a hole.
The newer word, according to this theory, refers to being pierced with ennui, an explanation that Ayto describes as “not terribly convincing.”
Getting back to your question, here are a couple of 18th-century examples from the OED in which “bored” is used with prepositions:
“I pity my Newmarket friends, who are to be bored by these Frenchmen,” from a letter written in 1768 by the Earl of Carlisle.
“I have bored you sadly with this catastrophe,” from a letter written in 1764 by the first Lord Malmesbury.
No prepositions other than “with” or “by” appear in any of the OED’s citations.
Fowler’s Modern English Usage (rev. 3rd ed.), in its entry for “bored,” says: “The normal constructions are with with or with by.” However, Fowler’s notes the usage that has caught your attention:
“A regrettable tendency has emerged in recent years, esp in non-standard English in Britain and abroad, to construe the verb with of.”
Check out our books about the English language