Word of the Week: Collywobbles

Georgina Howlett tackles her anxiety and unpicks this week’s word of the week.

Georgina Howlett
13th March 2017

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll have no doubt giggled at Arthur Weasley’s nickname for his wife: ‘Mollywobbles’. Well, ladies and gentlemen, one influence for this cringe-worthy pet name is this week’s word – ‘collywobbles’.

Collywobbles, presumably coined in the 19th century and from the terms ‘colic’ (meaning a paroxysmal pain in the abdomen, colon and/or bowels) and ‘wobble’ (meaning unsteadiness of movement or feelings), is most commonly used to refer to the uncomfortable, unsettled state of the stomach when experiencing fear, apprehension, or nervousness. It is a term representative of ‘fight or flight’ anxiety, whereby neurons along the brain-gut axis inform the release of adrenaline (norepinephrine), reducing blood flow to the gastric system and rerouting it to the body’s muscles as a sudden, hormonal response to a stressor which is perceived as a potential threat.

A more modern and perhaps more recognisable expression of this sensation is ‘butterflies’ – hence the nickname, as Molly reportedly had that effect on Arthur. Cheesy, but cute.

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