Archives for posts with tag: etymology


[per-snik-i-tee]  adjective
1. excessively precise and attentive to detail; fussy
2. (of a task) requiring close attention; exacting

I embrace my own word nerdery; I revel in the history and origin of words. I love the feel of certain words in my mouth and even just rolling around in my brain.

Persnickety is one of my favorites. It has several things going for it: onomatopoeia, flowing syllables and a warm, diminutive “y” (ee) ending.

It has an original negative connotation that has been taken up by persnickety folks such as myself and transformed into a positive. When it comes to editing, being excessively precise and attentive to detail isn’t fussy — it is ideal. I approach every editing job with a persnickety attitude and it never fails to serve my clients well.

This Makes Me Sick

“I’m feeling nauseous,” she said.

“Oh, no! Get away from me!” he replied.

“Why? I won’t throw up on you…”

“If you are nauseous, that means you are causing others around you to become nauseated — by giving off noxious vibes.”

“Get away from me.”

“Why? I’m not the one who is NAUSEATED!”

“Yeah, well you’re making me sick.”

Awful puns aside (they are my favorite kind of pun), nauseous is an interesting example of a technically incorrect adjective winning out over a technically correct version: nauseated. I was taught that describing myself as nauseous meant I was causing others to become nauseated. You see, the proper adjective choice for feeling puke-y is actually nauseated. You can describe a pile of garbage as nauseous or a person who smells terrible as nauseous — the “ous means it is making others sick. In order to describe yourself as feeling sick, you must rely on the “ated” — “I am nauseated and rather sick of writing about nausea.”

Trust me, it’s not like I went around correcting people who said they felt nauseous. You’d have to be a monster to correct the word choice of someone leaning over a toilet bowl. But I took notice of nauseous usage in everyday life: it’s on TV, it’s in books, it’s in movies and plays. Frankly, it’s everywhere. I have heard the proper “nauseated” used maybe a handful of times over the years, and usually only ever proclaimed by a pretentious pedant.

Because language is a living, ever-changing thing, I have been content to sit back and watch as the improper form of an adjective has overtaken the proper form. This blog post is more of a footnote than a call to arms. The word war is over: nauseous wins. I am, however, enough of a word nerd to enjoy sharing this trivia with you.

Nauseous, nauseated, schlemeel, schlemazel — it’s not going to bring society to a grinding halt. And the more compact syllabic structure of nauseous has won out. Frankly, when nausea is a physical reality, brevity is king. If nothing else, you can always avoid nausea forms all together and make use of the many colorful words that mean “to throw up” in English:

vomit   hurl   puke   blow chunks   ralph   chunder*   barf   spew   upchuck   heave   regurgitate   retch   bring up

Language: It’s not all flowery prose.

*Men at Work on chunder: 

I Have All the Answers

Freelance writing and editing has been my full-time job since 2011. Over the years, I have written and edited all manner of content: advertising copy, network defense courses, employee handbooks, websites and so much more. I love turning myself into a content expert with each new project and learning new things so I can better translate them to readers. I’m curious and inquisitive and I enjoy getting to exercise those traits during my workday, no matter the topic.

Today, I can add quiz writer to my skill set. For about a year, I worked on a project to research and deliver short quizzes about all manner of things, including dinosaurs, ancient Egyptians, fictional robots, and even the sense of smell. I ferreted out questions based on how interesting and universal they might be to readers, and I researched answers and clever facts to add to the mix. It was a challenging but fun gig and I’m so proud to watch as the project launches.

I play trivia almost every week at our favorite local bar and Trivial Pursuit is my No. 1 game jam. For some reason, I have the sort of brain that can remember the name of the actress who played Vicki (or V.I.C.I., if you want to get as geeky as me) in 1985’s “Small Wonder.” (It’s Tiffany Brissette.) Obscure history and science questions are pure joy to me. I think I’m very lucky to live in this era, with the history of the world at our fingertips and the Cult of Geekdom opening its arms to all comers. So you can imagine how lucky I felt to have the chance to write quizzes! I learned more about pirates, the history of underwear, and body language than I ever thought possible.

If you are a trivia buff like myself, I’m sure QuizLife will appeal to you. Many writers contributed to the hundreds of quizzes available and the site is a monument to word-nerdery and to the geek in all of us.

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