Sick at/to/on/in

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 1 13:55:49 UTC 2006

What has struck me as weird about my native version, as I've learned a bit
about dialects, is the fact that it's not "sick at *one's* stomach." I
certainly would never say, in normal, unmonitored conversation, e.g. "I hit
him in the head" or "John punched him in the mouth," as opposed to, e.g. "I
hit him in his head" or "John punched him in his mouth."

When I was a kid in St. Louis, the usual street phrase was "I fee' like I'm
gon' vomic"[sic] <har! har!>, since "vomit" was considered to be gross and
nearly as taboo as any of the four-letter words.

In St. Louis BE, -Vt# > -Vk# was such a powerful rule that I knew college
graduates who pronounced, e.g. "Hittite" and "comet" as "Hittike" and
"comic." Sometimes, friends asked me to help them learn the standard
pronunciation. But I was never successful at it, since, by the time that any
of them cared, they had "made 21" and learning a new pronunciation was as
difficult as learning a new language. It probably would have taken speech
therapy to enable them to change.


On 4/30/06, Roger Shuy <rshuy at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Roger Shuy <rshuy at MONTANA.COM>
> Subject:      Sick at/to/on/in
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> In Alva Davis' 1948 U of Michigan dissertation, A Word Atlas of the Great
> Lakes Region, he listed "sick to his stomach" as the  common Northern form
> with "sick at his stomach" common in the Midland area. He considered them
> almost mutually exclusive. I looked at the same forms in Northern Illinois
> in 1962 where I found the Northern form fairly common in the Midland areas
> of the state (PADS 38). Personally I grew up using neither of these,
> saying
> "sick on my stomach."
> Although this form appears on some checklists of dialect difference, it
> hasn't been fully researched to my knowledge.
> Prepositions offer severe challenges to learners of English as a second
> language. For this construction my own foreign students produced what
> seemed
> to me to be the most logical variant of all, "sick in my stomach."
> Roger Shuy
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list