'Fraught' Instead of 'Fraught With'?


Reader Janice has noticed a trend involving the word “fraught.”

“Things used to be fraught with something (danger, enmity, etc.),” she wrote. “But now they are just fraught.”

To Janice, the result is both grating and a bit confusing: “Leaves me wondering just what is being conveyed.”

I haven’t noticed the same trend, and, using a few language research tools, I can’t tell whether Janice is observing change in the works or whether it’s just her own experience. A Google search shows that “fraught with” was about four times as common as “fraught” alone over the past five years.

In the five years prior, “fraught with” beat out lone “fraught” by just two to one. So to whatever extent we can rely on my Google search abilities, the trend is in the direction opposite the one Janice has noticed.

Google Ngram viewer, which searches books, does show a slight uptick in “fraught” without “with” in the years leading up to 2008 (the most recent year this tool searched).

So we’re left with no clear picture of whether people are dropping the “with” after “fraught” more than they used to. And, more important, whether it's okay to do so. Here's my recent column on the subject. Spoiler alert: It is okay.

Tags: ,