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What does someone mean when they say that they have "incredibly weak nerves" ? It does not refer to a medical condition.

  • Did you hear this from a native speaker? Such a reference to weak nerves might have been much more likely in Victorian times, but they'd be highly unlikely to use incredibly in that way. What it means to me is that the speaker either isn't a native Anglophone, they don't really have their finger on the pulse of modern idiomatic usages, or they're deliberately trying to sound "quaint". – FumbleFingers Dec 8 '15 at 18:02
  • I read it in an analysis for The Glass Menagerie. The phrase was about a very shy and sensitive character, Laura. – V.Lydia Dec 9 '15 at 7:56
  • Ah, right. Tennessee Williams was always a bit theatrical/poetic, and I think that play is much preoccupied with invoking the past (Laura's mother is obsessed with arranging "gentleman callers" for poor Laura). I wasn't around in the 40s when it was written, but I can't help thinking that to the audience at the time, expressions like "weak nerves" and "gentleman callers" were intended to evoke an age of "former glory" (back before the Wingfield family "fell on hard times"), It all feels a bit like the "Texas old money" equivalent of "effete Victorian aristocracy" to me. – FumbleFingers Dec 9 '15 at 13:43
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It really, really depends on the context.

This means "Please don't tell me anything that might prove stressful for me":

PAMELA[whining]. Did you have to tell me they're all out there? I've got weak nerves. [faints]

This means "Don't be a smartass; I'm pretty irritable today":

PAMELA [threateningly]. Look, buster. You know I've got weak nerves. I can snap any moment. You keep annoying me like that, I'll strangle you.

The following means "She'll be getting on my nerves all the time. She's got a high-pitched gravelly voice. I hate her":

PAMELA[philosophically]. If Linda's going, I'm staying right here. I realize she's a riot and everything, but I've got weak nerves. I'm entitled to get some rest: I'm on vacation.

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Because I am a musician, the first thing that comes to mind is stage fright. However, this generalizes to any case where a person is easily upset, frightened, or made nervous.

So a musician could say this:

I have very weak nerves!

This means that they easily get nervous on stage, like in a performance or for an audition.

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