Monday, October 15, 2012

Word of the Week - Nauseous

Christ Healing the Sick by Washington Allston, 1813


Oh yeah, going for controversy this week. ;-)

So here's the deal. I've heard from quite a few sources that we moderns are misusing the word nauseous. That it ought not mean "to feel sick or queasy" but that it rather means "to cause a feeling of nausea."

Now, I've heard this from sources I trust, but they never quote their sources, and I'm now on a quest to figure out why in the world this is touted as grammatical fact and, more, as a "modern mistake" when every dictionary I look it up in says that nauseous has carried both means ("to feel sick" and "to make sick") since 1600-1610.

One dictionary I found says "careful writers will use nauseated for the feeling of queasiness and reserve nauseous for "sickening to contemplate." I'm okay with being careful, really I am, but I'm still unsure why grammarians are saying that using its original meaning is "a mistake of the moderns." It is, in fact, the first definition of the word in the OED.

So. Calling all grammarians! ;-) If you learned it this way and could point me to a source (not just an expert like the wonderful Grammar Girl, mind you) that states this as fact (maybe CMS has settled the question at some point??), I would be very grateful. I don't mind changing my ways to be a "careful" writer--but I'm a Johnnie. I don't ever accept an expert's opinion without checking out their sources. ;-)

4 comments:

  1. I know nothing - but would be interested in your results. I'm assuming you'll share? Hope so!

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  2. Hmmm...what an intresting topic! I hope you find out and enlighten the rest of us naive ones.

    (Is "grammarians" a real word? 'Cause it sounds awesome!)

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    1. LOL--it sure is! Apparently it was first used to describe those proficient in Latin, but has since been applied to experts in grammar. =) Dates from the 13th century in the Latin sense, the 14th in the more general one! ;-)

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  3. I think I first learned that in high school...but of course no real source unless you count Mrs. Parks. :)

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