The first time I heard someone use the word “anxious” to convey eagerness was when I was heard Martha Stewart say she was “anxious” to taste something that her guest, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, had prepared in the cooking segment of the show. I have since heard other chefs make this same use of the word. If I had to bet on it, I would bet that they picked up from Steweart – she says it a lot in this same type of context (positive.) The last chef I heard saying “anxious” to mean “eager” was Ricardo, on his show of the same name.
So I turned to the dictionaries, and I really hoped that they would be on my side and support my distaste for this use of the word, but alas, I was betrayed! Of course, the primary definition for “anxious” is the the negative one, the one born out of (what else?) “anxiety,” and meaning “uneasy,” “nervous,” etc. However, it is also stated that it can be used to mean “great eagerness” and let’s not even get into “terribly eager,” which is just another negative (what is up with that?)
I’m going on record to say that I dislike this usage of the word “anxious.” Even if it’s not wrong, it’s confusing and I have to wonder about the choice. Do people just not know the words “eager” or “keen”? Or do they think using “anxious” instead makes them sound smarter, more sophisticated? Whatever the case, it’s embarrassing.
I’m a huge fan of: “Say what you mean, and mean what you say,” which makes this issue a pet peeve. Glad I got that off my chest!