Solids and wetness - euphemisms

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Sun Jun 8 06:20:46 UTC 2008

I've been trying to work out the difference between accident and
wetness/solids, but I can't. As far as I can tell, the euphemism
"accident" requires a change of pitch to get the intended meaning;
otherwise, your interlocutor believes there really was an accident. So
it seems like "accident" is the same as "problem," though "accident"
doubtlessly has many more citations and a richer history.

I sure agree that you need a diaper context to get wetness/solids, but
is this simply an issue of frequency or is there something more
important at issue?


On Jun 6, 2008, at 6:10 AM, Laurence Horn wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Solids and wetness - euphemisms
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 12:30 AM -0700 6/6/08, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>> I wonder if the AHD4 adequately covers the diaper meaning of solids
>> or
>> wetness.
> 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".
> LH
>> 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
>> trash....
>> (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
>> beads.
>> (
>> 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
>> meaning.
>> 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 -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list