nauseous = nauseated (1885)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Jan 11 02:16:39 UTC 2005

At 5:02 PM -0500 1/10/05, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:

>In other words, "nauseous" has become a "skunked word" -- a word that has
>undergone a recent semantic shift and is therefore a source of confusion
>amongst those unsure of which sense is the accepted one.  Bryan A. Garner
>introduced the idea of "skunked words" in his _Modern American Usage_ (I
>believe "nauseous" is a prime example on his list).  Garner notes that
>some anxious speakers simply avoid skunked words if the new, prevailing
>usage is disparaged by prescriptivists as incorrect and the earlier usage
>is no longer generally understood by anyone other than the
>prescriptivists.  In the case of "nauseous", the word can be avoided
>entirely because the speaker has recourse to the unambiguous choices of
>"nauseated" and "nauseating".
In other cases, though, no skunking seems to have applied.  "Peruse"
has pretty much shifted over from "read carefully" to "skim", as far
as I can tell, despite the fact that the now prevailing use is still
disparaged by prescriptivists (including 66% of us distinguished AHD4
usage panelists) while the "etymological" meaning is mostly ignored
by those other than lexicographers and purists, and also despite the
fact that in the former meaning "peruse" has no obvious synonym while
in the latter it's a synonym of "skim".


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