- Advice column
An advice column is a column at a
magazineor newspaperwritten 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 www.justasksandy.com and the Elder Wisdom Circleoffer relationship advice to a broad audience, while Dear Maggie offers sex advice to a predominantly Christian readership in [http://www.christianitymagazine.co.uk Christianity magazine] In the UK, Anne Widdecombeis renowned for her advise column in The Guardiannewspaper and has been for many years.
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 Savageuses this method to comic effect in his " Savage Love" column.
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 Lipmanas 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 Lonelyheartsby 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 Discworldseries of novels.
E. Jean Carroll
Elder Wisdom Circle
Emily Yoffe, of Slate a web magazine, under the pseudonym Prudence
* " [http://www.cjnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=0&Itemid=71 Ask Ella] "
Straight Talk", a 1992 film featuring Dolly Partonas an agony aunt
Susan Sutherland Isaacswho worked under the pseudonym 'Ursula Wise' in several child care journals.
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