What is an Agony Uncle or Aunt? Why should anyone need one?

Published: 16th June 2006
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What is an Agony Uncle or Aunt? Why should anyone need one?
By John Elliott Aka Oaky Wood

Today I sat and pondered on a very fundamental question, of what exactly is an Agony Uncle or Aunt, and why should anyone really need one. Well I can say this with some degree of certainty; he or she, is not some great sage with infinite powers of wisdom.

King Solomon was portrayed in the Bible stories as a great wise leader, but in many ways he too was an ancient Agony Uncle, who's people came to him with their daily problems, troubles and woes. Although very wise and very astute King Solomon was after all only human, and, as it is only human to err, then he too could never answer all that was put before him.
The terms Agony Aunt and Uncle was only ever used within modern media. Magazines and newspapers, originally on an advertisement rich page of readers looking for missing relatives or friends they'd lost contact with, and later developed to become anyone who encouraged their readership to submit problems for them to solve, or at least give an unbiased opinion on, then publish the question and answers within the following publication. Initially called simply Problem Pages, then Agony Columns. Later to become identified with individual columnists who became associated with the actual pages on a regular basis. Many of these journalists became quite famous in this field, and moved into the many new media being developed from radio and television to the Internet and other Live Broadcasting Media


"Agony Aunt noun, 1970's a problem-solving usually a woman, columnist of newspapers and magazines to whom the lovelorn and generally often depressed can write; their letters will be answered in print or privately; thus the male equivalent, Agony Uncle. The first Oxford English Dictionary citation is in a 1975 edition, but it refers, to a biographical prototype of Evelyn Home, and to the "agony aunties" of the '1930's' and was associated with WWII and broadcast over the BBC World Services; note the actual term AGONY COLUMN noun, from which the names have derived, dates from the 1950's as quoted in a version of Cassell's Dictionary of Slang in 1998 by Jonathon Green"

Today's modern Agony Uncle or Aunt, does not sit in any form of judgement; after all they are really trying to befriend the advice seeker. Some only do this in a professional manor and will not correspond on a personal level preferring to answer all within their article pages. Others offer genuine advice and assistance and really care for their advice seekers in every way, often becoming very good friends, just like a real Aunt or Uncle would. Whichever type of Agony Uncle or Aunt you yourself prefer to associate with is entirely your choice. Good codes of conduct and discretion are of course essential; after all, you don't want your personal information, like your full identity of name, address and e-mail broadcast halfway around the world on the whim of some unscrupulous editor just to hopefully attract a larger proportion of the available readership. With the internet now playing a large roll in everyone's lives then more and more websites have been instrumental in offering the services of an Agony Uncle or Aunt for their visitors, as a valued addition to an already good website.


The simple answer to this is we may all find a need for an Agony Uncle or Aunt from time to time throughout our lives. No one is an island, and often it's those simple things that just get on top of us and get us down. Needing a sympathetic ear to listen or the shoulder to cry on was and still is the roll of our closest friends, a partner or relative. All too often however these problems arise, and we simply cannot confide with any degree of confidence in the people who surround us everyday, we need that input from an impartial stranger, an outsider looking in on our situation. Sometimes too there is no one there to confide in, in our lives. The growing trend of singles to be isolated from friends and family is quite alarming, and the popularity of messaging services and chat rooms within the internet community infrastructure, plus the advent of personal blogs have also brought about the need and rise of Agony Uncles And Aunts the world over. Many are finding the need to confide of past experiences that have haunted them for years, this bearing of their inner fears acts as a release, a catalyst setting them free from innermost chains that have burdened them. Agony persons fill these gaps perfectly with their own distance from the reality of it all, is a testament to their ever-growing popularity. An online Agony Uncle or Aunt can be that friend you so desperately need to confide in, and in doing so you may also help others.


Strange as this may sound, every-time an Agony Aunt or Uncle answers someone's problem publicly in whatever media, it may also help someone else. Our own problems may seem quite unique, and very personal to ourselves. However your own problem is actually the same as many others the world over, lots of individuals or couples going through identical forms of crisis situations with exactly the same problem, arising from almost identical backgrounds but in differing cultures. By highlighting your issues, others, who have not plucked up the courage to contact an Agony Aunt or Uncle? Are able to read about it, and resolve their own problems, after seeing the similarities of the questions asked. One question to an Agony Aunt or Uncle may help many thousands of others in its eventual publication and circulation. This helping of others is the very essence of why they have captivated audiences the world over, with international celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and her Shows, who after all is a well known media star and Agony Aunt in her own right


If you have a problem, and are in need of impartial advice, whether for publication or as a private contact, seek out your own personal Agony Aunt or Uncle, many are well educated and have graduated from the University of Life and Hard Knocks themselves, but all are very loving and caring individuals who enjoy helping others.

John Elliott aka Oaky Wood is the resident agony uncle for TheCorner4Women.com website

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