Not Feeling So Well?

Home from work? Not feeling so hot? Perhaps you are you nauseated. Or is it nauseous?

It is a fair question. Not too long ago, those two words—nauseated and nauseous—meant two different things. Careful writers may wish to preserve the difference.

If something is disgusting and makes you feel sick, it is “nauseous,” that is, causing nausea. When you feel nausea, you are “nauseated.” That’s the distinction.

That said, “nauseous” is well on its way to replace “nauseated” in common parlance, as well as popular writing, especially on television. This is how language evolves. It is unfortunate only because now we have to find something else that means “causing nausea.”

We suggest maintaining the distinction, unless you are writing dialog for popular media. In that case, consider using “nauseous” to mean “nauseated.” Your editor may or may not call you on it, but if you are using it consciously, it is your decision. Even if it makes your editor nauseated.

–Michael Fink

Semicolons—cherished, avoided…tattooed?

Semicolons—cherished, avoided…tattooed?

Umberto Eco was congratulated by an academic because the writer completely avoided the use of a single semicolon in the novel The Name of the Rose. Other writers have no such reservations; a few even sprinkle them about with a kind of wanton glee.

(See what I did there?)

Lately, however, I have seen them on skin. Not vellum, but living skin, as a tattoo. It turns out this is an effort by Project Semicolon (,* a nonprofit organization advocating hope and solidarity to those struggling with mental health, addiction, and/or thoughts of suicide. The semicolon represents a life that continues after a break, rather than a full stop. Members and allies sometimes choose to tattoo themselves with the punctuation mark in order to symbolize their struggles, or the struggles of their friends and loved ones. Although faith-based (specifically Christian), the organization is open to those of other beliefs.

—Michael Fink

* Note that as of this writing their website seems to be undergoing some maintenance or other disruption.


Old Dictionary Word of the Day #dictionary #jay #wanton

I couldn’t find “jay-walking” in this 1909 dictionary, but I did find “jay,” and it doesn’t necessarily refer to a blue jay:

Jay, jā, n. a bird of the crow family with gay plumage: a wanton woman: an indifferent actor, a stupid chattering fellow. [O. Fr. jay (mod. Fr. geai); from root of gay.]

From Chambers’s Twentieth Century Dictionary (part 2 of 4:E-M), 1909. Ed., Thomas Davidson.

Old #Dictionary Word of the Day: Lip Salve

fish-banner Adriaen Coenen

Image from Adriaen Coenen’s Fish Book (1577), Public Domain Review.

Mrs. Eaton’s “Universal Dictionary” provides the reader with recipes, rather than definitions. However, I think the meaning will come clear once you eat or use the product of the recipe. What does “lip salve” have to do with whales (pictured above)? Read on . . .

LIP SALVE. “Put into a small jar two ounces of white wax, half an ounce of spermaceti, and a quarter of a pint of oil of sweet almonds. Tie it down close, and put the jar into a small saucepan, with as much water as will nearly reach the top of the jar, but not so as to boil over it, and let it simmer till the wax is melted. Then put in a pennyworth of alkanet root tied up in a rag, with the jar closed, and boil it till it becomes red. Take out the alkanet root, and put in two pennyworth of essence of lemon, and a few drops of bergamot. Pour some into small boxes for present use, and the remainder into a gallipot tied down with a bladder.—Another. An ounce of white wax and ox marrow, with three ounces of white pomatum, melted together over a slow fire, will make an agreeable lip salve, which may be coloured with a dram of alkanet, and stirred till it becomes a fine red.” From The Cook and Housekeeper’s Complete and Universal Dictionary; including a System of Modern Cookery, in All Its Various Branches (1823). Author: Mary Eaton