"Exhaust oneself of" = 'get tired of'

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun May 16 17:00:56 UTC 2004

>This usage is unfamiliar to me.  I spotted it in a paragraph near the
>end of the article "Newest Gay Mecca Is Less of Key West, More of
>Mayberry" (The New York Times, May 15, 2004;
>Here is the quote, with some context to help establish the meaning:
>         >>>
>Mr. Cameron, who is gay, had exhausted himself of life in a tiny studio
>apartment on the Upper West Side in Manhattan for which he paid $1,300 a
>"There's a real community here," Mr. Cameron said when he got off the
>phone. "They already know what I drink at Georgie's Alibi. At the gay
>coffee shop they know I like mochas. In New York, I went to the same
>coffee shop every day and no one knew who I was."
>Also, Mr. Cameron noted, "I used to pay $40 to get into a club; here I
>can buy two drinks for $5."

It's unfamiliar to me too. There are however a few dozen Web examples of
"exhausted himself of", and at a glance most do NOT seem to be associated
with spectacularly incompetent writing.

I agree that "he had exhausted himself of" here exactly = "he had become
tired of".

I speculate that the derivation is thus (either through sloppy editing or
unusual preferences or whatever):

(1) "He had become tired of" > "He had tired himself of" ... the
replacement of a passive with a reflexive here is unusual although not
unprecedented (I find an analogous example in one of Bulwer-Lytton's
works); conceivably it is influenced by the writer's early exposure to
another language in which a relexive would be preferred?

(2) "He had tired himself of" > "He had exhausted himself of" ... since
"tire[d]" = "exhaust[ed]", this would seem perfectly fine, given a little
carelessness or imperfect acquaintance with the English language; however I
don't think "exhausted of" is usual for "tired of".

Were anyone to ask my opinion, I would recommend avoiding "exhausted of"
because it is at best peculiar and unnecessary, and at worst ambiguous.
Among the Web examples, "exhausted himself of" sometimes means "got tired
of", other times "exhausted his supply of", other times I'm not sure.

Just my naive notions.

Does NYT have strong usage standards?

-- Doug Wilson

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