Never heard of it. But since the author is British, . . .What did they think she was? A private detective? An agony aunt? Or simply a friend?”—The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith, page 16>
The Oxford English Dictionary lists and defines agony aunt, but Wikipedia’s discussion is more comprehensive.
Also “A column of a newspaper that contains personal advertisements, especially for missing relatives or friends or for new relationships.” (Oxford English Dictionary)An advice column is a column in a magazine or newspaper written by an advice columnist (colloquially known in British English as an agony aunt [[(also agony auntie) who writes an agony column]], 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 can
alsobe someone who gives advice to people who send in problems to the newspaper.
The ‘agony’ refers to the suffering of the supplicant who seeks a columnist’s or person’s advice. Well known advice columnists (agony aunts) in the U.S. include Dear Abby and Ann Landers.
The following quotes are from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources:
_______________________< 1854 “In time, . . . it would be as much sought after, and as eagerly read, as the ‘agony column’ of the Times.”—The Courier (Dundee, Scotland, 28 March, page 50/3>
<1972 “Pleas for help from young and old made to ‘agony aunties’ of magazines and newspapers, show that our established welfare institutions often fail to meet a personal, intimate human need.”—The Times (London), 17 April, page 3/1>
<1984 “I can't go on like this. I have written to Auntie Clara, the Agony Aunt.”—The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole by S. Townsend, page 19>
<1997 “The received wisdom, recounted ad nauseam in the agony columns of magazines and the annals of social research, is that divorce is cruel to children.”—Sunday Times (London), (News Review Section), 26 October, page 6/3>
<2010 “In her one-woman show, agony aunt Virginia Ironside says grandchildren are God's reward for not killing your children.”—Daily Telegraph (London), 8 June, page 21/2>
<2012 (headline) “ I Haven't Handed over a Paedophile to the Police - Because He's a Friend of the Family; from a Leading Agony Aunt, an Explosive Confession.”—The Mail on Sunday (London, England), 21 October>
Ken G – October 23, 2012