Thursday, August 16, 2012

Grammar Police: 'You make me sick' Edition

There are a few words in the English language that are so commonly misused or misappropriated that I would be quite tempted to recommend the collective Grammarian Powers That Be change their meanings to accommodate modern speech. In other words: it's so wrong that it should be right. After all, we know that the definition of a word is derived from the context surrounding that word when used most often by most people.

Today's grammar citation, however, is to those of you using a set of words that, if you took a second to look at them, you will realize you should have known better. Also, it was inspired by my recent undertaking of the first Fifty Shades book - whose author, incidentally, has some of the most atrocious grammar I've ever seen. (Her abuse of the comma and semicolon should be considered a felony given the frequency and nigh deliberateness of the act.)

Until then, I shall be quite glad to point out the problem with the following two words:

Nauseous v. Nauseated


Most people use the former when referring to themselves. An example sentence: "Man, that Taco Smell run last night really made me nauseous." Whereas, it seems that the latter word is almost forgotten in modern, western notions of speech. Here's the thing, you're using the first word - nauseous - as though it's the second word - nauseated. They do not mean the same thing. One is for you, and one is for someone or something else. 

The definition for 'nauseous' is 'causing nausea or disgust: nauseating'. So, if you said something like "I'm nauseous," then what you're telling someone is that you will probably cause them to vomit. What are you not saying is that you, yourself, feel ill. A proper example sentence would be: Bringing up politics during our Thanksgiving dinner was the most nauseous thing Tim could have done. What the sentence is saying is that the subject of politics at an inappropriate time in front of a captive and unwilling audience made the party feel collectively ill. 

In the example, it would be correct to say that those who did not wish to participate - or perhaps those that ate some of Aunt Mitsy's questionable pudding - felt nauseated by the experience.

Side note: The most current dictionaries, mainly online though some newer print editions have acquiesced, will have a secondary definition of 'nauseous' stating that it is a state of personally feeling ill. However, this is followed by the caveat that it is simply because of current usage that it is printed as such and not because it is correct. (Much in the same way that the word 'ain't' appears in the dictionary, and then defines itself as an incorrect conjunction that should not be used in proper speech or writing. Ain't that something?)

Hope we've all learned something, and I hope that you all will collectively forgive me for reading this trashy, dirty, paper thin-yet-page turning book. I make no apologies, as my brain knows that following this read I will probably feed it something high brow. (Or, at least, something that knows the difference between a dependent clause and and independent one. I'm look straight at you, Mrs. E. L. James.)

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

3 comments:

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  2. This bugs me almost as much as human 'kids' and nucular bombs do.

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  3. My personal pet peeve is still 'alter' versus 'altar'. The biggest offenders are Pagans. You would think they would know the difference. My inner snarkmeister wants to attribute this to people who's lineage traces to the Coven of Hot Topics or the Assembly of Spencer's, but the truth is it's just lousy spelling.

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