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I’m Nauseated So Are You Nauseous?

It used to be that if you told me you were nauseous, I might agree with you. The rules of the game have changed.

I can recall an event that happened not that long ago — well, I guess it was twenty some years ago — when a colleague and I were chatting, and he said to me, “I’m nauseous.”

I looked at him for a moment, deciding whether to agree or disagree.  He certainly could be annoying at times, and there were occasions when I avoided him because his demeanor could be quite depressing, but he never truly made me feel sick to my stomach.

And so I responded, “No, you’re not, not really.”

He gave me a blank look.

And then, as if I didn’t quite hear him correctly the first time, he repeated, “I’m nauseous.”

And I, adamantly, insisted that he was nothing of the sort.

“How can you possibly know whether I am nauseous?” he finally asked.

“Because, my friend,” I smiled, “You do not make me nauseated. Therefore you are not nauseous.”

I then went on, in a professorial tone that belied my youth, to explain the correct usage of nauseous versus nauseated.

As I understood it, something that is nauseous makes someone feel nauseated. 

I clung firmly to that belief until yesterday, when someone at work, looking rather pale, winced as he told me, “I’m nauseous.”

I smiled and replied, “No Mark, you’re not nauseous.”

Grimacing as he clenched his stomach, he responded, “Yes I’m nauseous.  Look it up.  Nauseous and nauseated are now used interchangeably.”

Aghast at this possibility, I left Mark there dying on the floor as I raced to my computer and confirmed.

As Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage puts it, “Any handbook that tells you that ‘nauseous’ cannot mean ‘nauseated’ is out of touch with the contemporary language. In current use it seldom means anything else.”

I then realized something.  I had been feeling proud all these years that I knew something that not everyone else knew; there was a bit of me that enjoyed saying to myself, “Aha, I know something you don’t know,” whether I told the misuser of “nauseous” or not. 

And now that something is gone.

Image via Wikipedia

It’s one thing to have a grasp of language and to enjoy words and to be able to choose one’s words carefully.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading and listening to William F. Buckley, one of the modern masters of vocabulary.  But it’s something else to enjoy a haughtiness that comes with such mastery.

And what’s even worse, I can’t claim to be a master of vocabulary.  I’m just a little corn flake in the big bowl of Vocabulary Breakfast Cereal.

With that, I humbly apologize to anyone out there whom I have made nauseated.

To think that perhaps I’ve been nauseous all these years makes me feel … well … nauseous!

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User Comments
  1. Karen Gross

    On March 14, 2009 at 9:54 am

    I am so sorry for your loss! There is nothing like pride to make you humble.

  2. seashell66

    On March 14, 2009 at 10:08 am

    I used to feel that way about the semicolon…Nice write

  3. hfj

    On March 14, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Found out something new today. Well written and informative article. well done.

  4. C Jordan

    On March 14, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Your style is very enjoyable to read. The events, unfolding as they did in your story, must have been a sickener for you. :)

  5. Andrew Davies

    On March 14, 2009 at 10:33 am

    I forgive you! The changes in society and word usage make it a little difficult as we grow up. I am not looking forward to when LOL and BTW become common words that are accepted outside of the computer world.

  6. Peter Cimino

    On March 14, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Nice play on the english language. good stuff

  7. rutherfranc

    On March 14, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    a misadventure in this one.. I too felt humbled when proven wrong while feeling righted or righteous — whatever..

  8. kate smedley

    On March 14, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Entertaining and educational!

  9. Betty Carew

    On March 14, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Now who would have ever thought about this or even worried about it lol Great article nutuba as usual I just loved your story.

  10. Alina Beck

    On March 14, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    I normally say just I feel sick – saves the confusion! Although where I come from people sometimes say that they are ’sickening for something’, so maybe it’s not so straightforward after all!

  11. nobert soloria bermosa

    On March 14, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    it’s always nice learning new things,thanks

  12. denus

    On March 14, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    nice work

  13. DA Cournean

    On March 14, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    It is no wonder that people from foreign countries who settle in America continue to speak in their native tongue. English can be mind boggling to learn. Great story!

  14. derrickblogs

    On March 15, 2009 at 12:12 am

    This is kinda funny.
    I have heard people use the terms in the wrong context. I understand what you were saying.

    Nice article.

  15. R J Evans

    On March 15, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    I usually only get time to say urgh before I puke! :-)

  16. Placid Quake

    On March 16, 2009 at 9:58 am

    I wonder how many people I alienated by insisting they weren’t nauseous?

  17. Kikolani

    On March 16, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    They probably changed the meaning to be interchangeable because so few people knew the difference. Sadly, that takes away from the language a bit, as now I can’t call someone nauseous. :)

    ~ Kristi

  18. CutestPrincess

    On March 16, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    you educated me… well done!

  19. The Quail

    On March 16, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Interesting article and very well written.

  20. ML Sheldon

    On March 17, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Good story.

  21. Sakuragi

    On March 20, 2009 at 7:47 am

    I like reading stories like this, helps me relax =)
    a fun read!

  22. postpunkpixie

    On March 21, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Haha gosh I hadn’t twigged that. So something nauseous causes nausea which makes one feel nauseated. Interesting. You learn something new every day.

  23. Jesus LeChristy

    On March 23, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    What a douchbag. Get over yourself.

  24. eddiego65

    On September 11, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Entertaining nauseous read! Thanks!

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