Advice column

Advice column

An advice column is a column at a magazine or newspaper written by an advice columnist (colloquially known as an agony aunt, or agony uncle if the columnist is a male). The image presented was originally of an older woman providing comforting advice and maternal wisdom, hence the name "aunt".

An advice columnist answers readers' queries on personal problems, in particular giving advice about sexual problems. In many cases, the queries, as well as the answers, have been created in the office, and the agony aunt is actually a team of writers. Marjorie Proops's name appeared (with photo) long after she retired. The nominal writer may be a pseudonym, or in effect a brand name; the accompanying picture may bear little resemblance to the actual author.

The term is beginning to fall into disuse, as the scope of personal advice has broadened, to include overtly sexual matters — pioneered by the likes of Dr. Ruth — as well as general lifestyle issues.

Examples of advice columnists

Many advice columns are now syndicated and appear in countless newspapers. Such prominent U.S. examples include Dear Abby, Ann Landers, and in a more modern form, Carolyn Hax's "Tell Me About It". Internet sites such as and the Elder Wisdom Circle offer relationship advice to a broad audience, while Dear Maggie offers sex advice to a predominantly Christian readership in [ Christianity magazine] In the UK, Anne Widdecombe is renowned for her advise column in The Guardian newspaper and has been for many years.

Typical format

Questions are most often asked 'anonymously', with the signature assuming the problem that is being expressed. For example, someone who is asking about erratic behaviour in their partner may sign their letter "Confused, Johannesburg".

On the Internet, a greater variation on the signature theme is often seen. The person's signature may refer to the problem being expressed, but rather in a phrase, which the 'agony aunt' abbreviates so as to spell an appropriate word. For instance, "Confused About My Partner" would become "CAMP". Dan Savage uses this method to comic effect in his "Savage Love" column.

Related fiction

Inevitably the "Agony Aunt" has become the subject of fiction, often satirically or farcically. Versions of the form include:
* An agony aunt whose own personal problems and issues are more bizarre than those of her correspondents. A notable example is the British TV sitcom Agony created by Anna Raeburn, starring Maureen Lipman as the agony aunt with an overbearing mother, an unreliable husband, neurotic gay neighbours, and a career in media surrounded by self-promoting bizarros. Anna Raeburn herself works as an agony aunt on radio call-in shows, much as the main character of the sitcom does.
*Mrs. Mills deliberately gives terrible advice to her clients, and is a satire of an agony aunt.
* Another classic example of the agony aunt in fiction appears in Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathaniel West

Other uses of the term

The "Agony Aunts", Dotsie and Sadie, are the chilling elderly enforcers of the "Street of Negotiable Affection" in author Terry Pratchett's Discworld series of novels.

ee also

* Ann Landers
* Claire Rayner
* Cary Tennis
* Dan Savage
* Jeanne Phillips
* Denise Robertson
* E. Jean Carroll
* Elder Wisdom Circle
* Helen Bottel
* Emily Yoffe, of Slate a web magazine, under the pseudonym Prudence
* Katie Boyle
* Marie Manning
* Marjorie Proops
* Mrs Mills
* Phillip Hodson
* Susan Quilliam
* " [ Ask Ella] "
* "Miss Lonelyhearts"
* "Straight Talk", a 1992 film featuring Dolly Parton as an agony aunt
* Susan Sutherland Isaacs who worked under the pseudonym 'Ursula Wise' in several child care journals.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • advice column — UK US noun [countable] [singular advice column plural advice columns] mainly american an agony column Thesaurus: parts of newspapers and magazinesmeronym types of newspaper or magazine …   Useful english dictionary

  • advice column — advice columns N COUNT In a newspaper or magazine, the advice column contains letters from readers about their personal problems, and advice on what to do about them. [AM] (in BRIT, use agony column) …   English dictionary

  • advice column — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms advice column : singular advice column plural advice columns mainly American an agony column Derived word: advice columnist noun countable Word forms advice columnist : singular advice columnist plural advice… …   English dictionary

  • advice column — (British) advice column, regular advice feature (in a newspaper, magazine etc.) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • advice column — ad vice .column n part of a newspaper or magazine in which someone gives advice to readers who have written to them about their personal problems British Equivalent: agony column >advice columnist n …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • advice column — noun (C) especially AmE part of a newspaper or magazine in which someone gives advice to readers about their personal problems; agony column BrE advice columnist noun (C) …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • advice column — ad vice ,column noun count a piece of writing in a newspaper consisting of questions or problems people have and the answers or advice given by the COLUMNIST ╾ ad vice ,columnist noun count …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Dear Prudence (advice column) — Dear Prudence is an advice column appearing weekly in the online magazine Slate and syndicated to over 200 newspapers. The column was initiated on 20 December 1997. Prudence was a pseudonym, and the author s true identity was not revealed at the… …   Wikipedia

  • advice columnist — noun [countable] [singular advice columnist plural advice columnists] Thesaurus: journalists and groups of journalistssynonym types of newspaper or magazine …   Useful english dictionary

  • Advice — may refer to:*Advice (opinion), an opinion or recommendation offered as a guide to action, conduct. *Advice (constitutional), in constitutional law, a frequently binding instruction issued to a constitutional office holder *Advice in aspect… …   Wikipedia

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