Thursday, January 10, 2008

Have your donut and your doughnut, too

Today I bow my head to the gods of language devolution. I give up. The stupidifiers of language win. Today my Gmail automatic spell-checker told me I had spelled "doughnut" incorrectly. "Donut" was the right formation of letters to describe a ball of dough fried in oil.

Fine. Go ahead. Have your strawberrys and your two week's notice and your donuts and your nucular energy, too. I'm too tired to argue.

But why is it that people who insist on certain spellings or pronunciations out of ignorance always get to win? Don't we get one? Just one? A little one? Me, I'd really like to keep the word "nauseated." I realize it's a lost cause, that there are few of us anymore who shiver when someone says, "I feel nauseous," but that's my pick. It's a perfectly good word, as is "nauseous," and I don't see why language should be muddied by using the latter for more meanings than it previously had. Talk about downsizing! Residents of dictionaries oughta complain. They're being fired right out of existence.

Speaking of which, I'm having lovely little time-wasting sessions playing vocabulary games on the Free Rice link recommended by Karen. But does anyone else find some of their definitions a little ... odd?

6 comments:

goofy said...

Change is a fact of all language. Rather than get upset by it, I prefer to see it as evidence of human creativity. There's no confusion with "nauseous" because when it means "sick" it follows a linking verb (I feel nauseous) and when it means "causing nausea" it is an attributive adjective (This is nauseous medicine).

Spelling changes for all kinds of reasons. "island", "debt", "school", and "hectic" were all respelled (from early iegland, dette, scol, etik) because of beliefs (mistaken in the case of island) about the words' origins.

People have been complaining about the devolution of English for about 300 years. If it was going to devolve, surely it would have done so by now.

Introvert Girl said...

Are you saying I don't have the same right that grammarians have had for the last 300 years? I protest!

Besides, I did say I gave up trying to fight it. All I ask is for one little distinction. And it's not because I'm confused about what nauseous means in different situations, it's because it's sad to see words disappear. Not just sad like seeing a word such as pelisse fall out of use because it's no longer relevant, but because we muddy distinctions by using one word for multiple meanings when we used to have two.

goofy said...

No, I'm saying that. Complain all you like. :)

I am saying that I'm not sure there is any blurring of distinctions just because one word has more than one meaning. "nauseated" is not disappearing, altho it is less common than "nauseous" (MW Dictionary of English Usage page 645). And "nauseous" has more than one meaning, but its intended meaning is always clear. Polysemy happens.

Introvert Girl said...

Before you ask, yes, I had to go look up polysemy. Thank goodness for Bartleby.com!

Nauseated might not be disappearing from the dictionary ... yet. But I can't remember the last time I heard anyone use it for any purpose, much less the one that nauseous is encroaching upon.

Karen M said...

I was going to say that we can't even blame it all on The Simpsons, given their sly cultural references.

But then I had to look up polysemy, too, to confirm it meant what I thought... and I thought "Hooray for polysemy," without which our humor would greatly suffer.

And I think it's even an important source of jokes on The Simpsons.

I'm glad you like the Free Rice site I'Girl! My daughter sent me the link. I'm not sure I'd call the answers definitions, though. Maybe synonyms? Some of them are so narrow.

Ollock said...

Eh, I think "donut" is a marvellous spelling. Getting rid of -ough and its ambiguous readings should be a good thing for any word.