The historical attention deficit

Today’s Word of the Day by has two definitions. One of them is just what the word sounds like, which is woolgathering,  a gathering of the tufts of wool shed by sheep and caught on bushes. This is actually the second definition. The first one is very different and it seemed like the wrong definition for the word until I realized how it came about.

A noun, woolgathering [woo l-gath-er-ing] is, and also means an indulgence in idle fancies and in daydreaming; absentmindedness. Because gathering tufts of wool was thought to be a mindless task and gatherers were caught daydreaming, this definition grew out of the literal sense. Entering the English language in the mid-1500’s, I suppose it could be considered the historical disorder of attention deficit.

I also suppose that a woolgatherer would be a person who collects the woolgatherings left by sheep. What about a person doing the indulging of fancies, would they, or could they, be called a woolgatherer as well? So a person with attention deficit disorder, could they be called an attention deficiter? Just kidding, I know this is not a word. I know that they are simply called someone who does not subtract. 😉


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