nauseous = nauseated (1885)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jan 10 21:22:09 UTC 2005

At 1:52 AM -0500 1/8/05, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>A usage no doubt repulsive to the John Simons and Robert Fiskes of this
>world is the equating of "nauseous" with "nauseated" (rather than the
>earlier sense of "nauseating").

Here's the AHD4 usage note on the issue:
Traditional critics have insisted that nauseous is properly used only
to mean "causing nausea" and that it is incorrect to use it to mean
"affected with nausea," as in Roller coasters make me nauseous. In
this example, nauseated is preferred by 72 percent of the Usage
Panel. Curiously, though, 88 percent of the Panelists prefer using
nauseating in the sentence The children looked a little green from
too many candy apples and nauseating (not nauseous) rides. Since
there is a lot of evidence to show that nauseous is widely used to
mean "feeling sick," it appears that people use nauseous mainly in
the sense in which it is considered incorrect. In its "correct" sense
it is being supplanted by nauseating.

>The OED3 draft entry dates this sense of
>"nauseous" to 1949, but surely we can do better...
>1885 _Daily Gleaner_ (Kingston, Jamaica) 14 Apr. 2/5 I saw the long and
>white helmeted troops march in apparent comfort on their way, while I
>swayed to and fro and was bumped up and down and oscillated and see-sawed
>from side to side until I became nauseous and had exhausted my profane
>Arabic vocabulary in the vain attempt to induce "Daddles" to consider my
>comfort more than his own.
>1903 _Coshocton Daily Age_ (Ohio) 16 Sep. 1/1 Her voyage through the
>spirit land made her somewhat nauseous and was not the most pleasant
>journey imaginable, but she is on the high road to recovery now.
>1906 _Daily Gleaner_ (Kingston, Jamaica) 7 July 7/3 (advt.) When you feel
>nauseous and dizzy, don't take brandy or whisky -- try Nerviline.
>1927 _Chicago Tribune_ 9 May 10/3 This lasts ten or fifteen minutes, and
>then I have a terrible headache and I feel nauseous.
>1933 _Los Angeles Times_ 21 Sep. II6/1 (advt.) The salts that do not make
>you nauseous.
>The 1885 cite is from an unnamed piece entitled, "In the Camps at Korti:
>Terrible March across the Heated Sands of the Soudan" ("Daddles" is the
>name of the writer's camel).  So perhaps British (or Commonwealth) sources
>antedate American ones for this usage (despite the OED's "orig. U.S."
>Here is the earliest cite I could find expressing concern over the proper
>use of "nauseous" (from Frank Colby's column, "Take My Word For It!"):
>1946 _Los Angeles Times_ 8 Nov. II7/7 From a recent issue of Look: "Stefan
>became nauseous." Could that be right? ... Yes, if the author intended to
>say that Stefan was loathsome; so disgusting as to cause nausea. Obviously
>he meant to write: Stefan became nauseated.
>--Ben Zimmer

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