Solids and wetness - euphemisms

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Jun 6 13:10:24 UTC 2008

At 12:30 AM -0700 6/6/08, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>I wonder if the AHD4 adequately covers the diaper meaning of solids or

I wonder if these are actual diaper meanings or recoverable narrowed
uses in context.  I'm pretty sure we want euphemistic uses of
"accident" (let's see...yup, AHD: 1c. 'An instance of involuntary
urination or defecation in one's clothing'), but it seems to me that
the parallel uses of 'solids' and 'wetness' are still more tethered
to their, shall we say, context of occurrence (or direct allusions as
in the commercials/ads).  In general, there will be uses of most
words (sometimes but not always euphemistic ones) that narrow down
the frame of reference from 'X' to 'relevant X', but (while I'm no
lexicographer) I think we'd need to find a sufficient critical mass
of context-untethered uses of this sort (as with 'accident' or
'waste') to warrant a separate subentry.  In those E.D. commercials,
the guy often refers to his "problem" by meaningfully lowering his
voice and it's clear what sort of problem he has in mind, but I
wouldn't expect dictionaries to list 'impotence' (itself, of course,
a narrowing-derived euphemism of centuries past) as a separate
subsense of "problem".


>Relevant definitions:
>solid n. 1. A substance having a definite shape and volume; one that
>is neither liquid nor gaseous.
>wetness n. 1. The condition of being wet. 2. Moisture
>Citations -----
>1. Why you'll LOVE using Fuzzi Bunz Cloth Diapers:[...]
>(a) Soft, waterproof outer material keeps wetness & messes where they
>belong preventing leaks....
>(b) Fleece is naturally stain resistant and prevents solids from
>sticking. (
>2. Just dump solids in toilet, if it [sic] does not fall out then put
>in hamper, the washing machine will do the rest.
>3. (a) On most packs of disposable diapers, the user is instructed to
>dispose of solids in the toilet before putting the diaper in the
>(b) While they do, in some ways, present less of an impact on the
>environment, they still contain many of the same chemicals, most
>importantly the polymers that absorb your baby's wetness and form gel
>4. Also, the fact that the diaper doesn't immediately wick away
>wetness like the disposables means that our little one tells us when
>his diaper is wet and this will make toilet training much easier.
>5. Chaffing or contact allergies can be culprits, but most often the
>cause is simply wetness - chemicals and enzymes in urine and stools
>can constitute quite the toxic cocktail when left to marinate a soft
>baby's bottom.
>"Solids" seems the easier case. In citations 2 and 3 (a), in
>particular, the item being referred to isn't solids in general, but
>specifically feces. "Solids" seems to derive from "solid wastes."
>"Wetness" is a little murkier. Nobody would confuse the nature of "my
>jacket is wet" with "my diaper is wet" or "the wetness (of my jacket)"
>with "the wetness (of my diaper)" but as there isn't a better
>adjective readily available (such as urine-soaked), context is
>potentially what makes the difference, rather than an actual separate
>In citation 4, both "wet" and "wetness" seem to be ordinary on the
>surface, but "wick away wetness" indicates the process of a diaper
>funneling urine away from the source (the penis) to an absorbent pad
>where the urine will not cause skin irritation. In citations 1 (a) and
>3 (b), "wetness" seems to clearly indicate urine, though citation 5
>specifically includes fecal moisture in the concept of "wetness."
>I'm not sure how the line is defined, but it seems that both of these
>have very specific meanings that deserve separate definitions. What do
>others think? BB
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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