nauseous, momentarily, quote

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nauseous, momentarily, quote

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Ago 11, 2009, 2:17 pm

Each of the above words had one meaning, but has been abused so much that it either has or is in danger of having (depending on whom you ask) its meaning change.

nauseous used to mean "to cause a feeling of sickness" (i.e. the smell was nauseous")
now it is used to mean "to feel sickness" (i.e. that made me feel nauseous")

momentarily used to mean "for a moment" (i.e. I was momentarily confused)
now it is used to mean "in a moment" (i.e. I will return momentarily)

quote used to ONLY be a verb (i.e. I will quote you on that)
quote now also is used as a noun (i.e. that was a really good quote!)

I'm curious where the members of this group stand on this issue. Please vote! (and discuss if you like)

Do you agree with:

1. Aaargh! People are using it wrong and should be corrected!


2. Language is organic. The meaning has simply changed.

Ago 11, 2009, 6:07 pm

a. Nauseous vs. nauseated: Meaning is clear whichever one uses, most of the time. Take a scenario in which one person says to the other "You are nauseous." Who'd think the first person was sickened by the second? Not I. Rather, the first noticed that the second was sick, So, here, 2. If, indeed, the first person were sickened by the second, he'd be more likely to say "You make me want to puke!" or somesuch. Or perhaps, nothing at all, if the second were his boss. Besides, we do have "nauseating" which takes the place of "nauseous." I thought this was settled a few hundred years ago!

b. 1. I think we need the distinction. "I will return momentarily" can be taken to mean, "I'll come back, and then leave again rather quickly." I am however, ready to concede that the distinction is being quickly erased. Oh, well.

c. 2. No confusion here. English has been making nouns of verbs and vice versa for, oh, well, about a millennium.

Ago 11, 2009, 9:30 pm

Meaning is clear whichever one uses, most of the time

Not the point, though.

c. 2. No confusion here. English has been making nouns of verbs and vice versa for, oh, well, about a millennium.

But it's not even doing that. The noun "quote" is a contraction of "quotation", not a nounification of a verb.

Ago 11, 2009, 10:01 pm

>3 PaulFoley:, Not the point, though.

It is if you think that the purpose of language is to communicate.

But it's not even doing that. The noun "quote" is a contraction of "quotation", not a nounification of a verb.

Is this a distinction that's supposed to determine for us whether or not we should approve of using "quote" as a noun? If so, how?

Ago 11, 2009, 11:54 pm

#3 says "The noun "quote" is a contraction of "quotation", not a nounification of a verb."

Then it should be spelled: quot'

(with an apostrophe)


Editado: Ago 12, 2009, 12:29 am

I'm actually a stickler for "correct" English usage; even though I sometimes err myself.

However, the language is organic and does evolve, so blinkered adherence to rules and definitions can sometimes lead to one becoming an old fuddy duddy. Even most references agree that disagreements abound. I am the owner of the first edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage, and a copy of the latest third edition. Fowler is often considered the canonical reference to proper English usage, but even these two editions do not agree on all aspects. The first edition is still in print and available, as many "traditionalists" prefer it. I also have the Economist Enligh Style Guide, and several other style and usage guides. None of them agree with each other 100%.

My point is that, whilst there is certainly an accepted traditionalist position on most topics, there is no one real "correct" answer to many English spelling, pronounciation and grammatical usage. The language, as you say, is organic and continues to grow.

Having said all that, I'm with you.

Another favourite of mine is "alternative." There is only ever one alternative! I bristle when I hear "We have three alternatives" (or some such). No you don't!!!!


Ago 12, 2009, 12:42 am

#3 : The noun "quote" is a contraction of "quotation", not a nounification of a verb.

How can one tell?

(By the way, nounification is an interesting nonce word. Out of context, I'd think someone left the space out of "no unification," though.)

What's happening is something the linguists call conversion, a process in which a word changes which part of speech it is without otherwise changing at all. Easy in English, where nouns have no gender or declension except for number. So the plural of the noun "quote" is "quotes." Easy; regular.

There are numerous examples of words doing double duty as both nouns and verbs. Who knows, for example, which was first; the noun "touch" or the verb? Yet we never confuse them; how they are used in the sentence, or utterance, determines which part of speech it is.

Ago 12, 2009, 12:59 am

Choosing a particular register is one's prerogative, of course. Teachers and editors can even impose one upon others with some justification.

But arguments based on the claim of recent unwanted innovation are suspect. And that's what the OED is for.

By my reading:
nauseous 1885
momentarily 1869
quote 1888
alternatives 1857

Ago 12, 2009, 2:44 am

> 8 MMcM

You have an OED at hand?

I'm jealous!

My secret desire is to eventually buy a full edition... all twenty volumes. It would, however, drive my wife into fits of apoplectic incomprehension.

Ago 12, 2009, 12:28 pm

MMcM, thanks for that. This horrible trend of prescriptivists not looking up the dates for the changes they complain about needs to end. ;)

Editado: Ago 12, 2009, 12:35 pm

When did prescriptivists ever care about evidence?

Ago 12, 2009, 12:49 pm

Whoah, there. Let's not be hatin' on the prescriptivists. And it should be noted that, from SOME perspectives, 150 years isn't really that long. ;-)

More seriously, though, I think there's a big old gray area when trying to measure how recently a usage "appeared" vs. "became prevalent" vs "become dominant" (i.e. more common than the earlier "correct" usage).

Even if you are a "descriptivist", the 2009 American Heritage Dictionary says, in their "usage note" about using "momentarily" to mean "in a moment" instead of "for a moment", that "the extended usage is unacceptable to 59 percent of the Usage Panel."

What does the vote of the AHD "usage panel" really mean? That could be debated ad nauseum, I'm sure. But taken at face value, it means that just because a usage has been around since the 1800's doesn't mean that it has evolved to the point where it "feels right" to more than a slim majority of the population.

Ago 12, 2009, 2:55 pm

>12 gregstevenstx:, You wrote: Even if you are a "descriptivist", the 2009 American Heritage Dictionary says, in their "usage note" about using "momentarily" to mean "in a moment" instead of "for a moment", that "the extended usage is unacceptable to 59 percent of the Usage Panel."

I'm not sure exactly where you're going with this. This doesn't sound like "description" to me; it sounds like "prescription." The experts consulted are talking about what they think is "acceptable," not how the word is being and has been used. Why should the panel's opinion on this matter be of interest to a thoroughgoing descriptivist?

It seems to me that the success or failure of a speech act ought to be judged on the basis of whether the message understood by the hearer is the same message that the speaker intended to convey. The hearer's manufactured umbrage over supposed "misuses" of the language is irrelevant. Objecting to the usages we've been discussing is pure filibuster; nothing is at stake.

Ago 12, 2009, 3:17 pm

What #13: polutropon said.

Ago 12, 2009, 3:27 pm


"I'm not sure exactly where you're going with this. This doesn't sound like "description" to me..."

It depends on what you think the panel vote represents. If you think it represents a few stuffy people talking about what things SHOULD be like, then it's "prescription". If the panel is just a bunch of people representing the population at large and giving opinions on what "feels acceptable" then it could be taken as a sample of the descriptive cultural norm.

Here's an article about the panel:

You decide.

I think it's debatable.

"It seems to me that the success or failure of a speech act ought to be judged on the basis of whether the message understood by the hearer"

ABSOLUTELY NOT. There are a lot of terrible linguistic acts out there that are comprehensible. That is a testiment to human ability to decipher noisey information. It's not a statement about the language.

Whether or not something is "correct" usage (descriptively) should ONLY be whether the population ACCEPTS IT AS AN ACCEPTABLE UTTERANCE.

Most people would say that understand what you mean when you say "me want go bye-bye now!"

Most people would not rate this as correct. Proscriptively AND descriptively, it is not correct usage.... but you know what it means.

Ago 12, 2009, 3:28 pm

p.s. the typo in my last post was another good example. I accidentally wrote,

"Most people would say that understand what you mean...."

Everyone reading it, I'm sure, knows that I meant "Most people would say that they understand what you mean..."

But nobody would say that my sentence, as written, was "correct".

Ago 12, 2009, 3:54 pm

>15 gregstevenstx:, 16, Read my post again, and see if I ever used the word "correct" at all. I didn't. I used the word "successful" for a reason, and my reason was to avoid having this conversation.

I'll also add that the example you gave in >15 gregstevenstx: contains grammatical errors, whereas we'd previously been restricting the domain of discourse to usage errors. Different considerations are invoked if you change the domain of discourse, and I never would have claimed that "nothing is at stake" if the errors we'd been discussing were of the variety and seriousness of "me want go bye-bye now."

But in any event, assuming that the speaker of that sentence meant that he was ready to go, he communicated successfully. The fact that people might draw the conclusion as well that he has a mental handicap or else a very odd sense of humor doesn't diminish the success of his speech act. He may have failed in other important ways, e.g., by failing to maintain the decorum required by the occasion, or by embarassing his wife in front of her friends, but such consequences (I'd argue) fall outside of the purview of linguistics properly so-called.

Ago 12, 2009, 4:39 pm

Or he could have been a toddler, in which case, he'd have been considered rather cute, no?

Ago 12, 2009, 5:52 pm

17: You're right. I'm sorry, I was projecting a well-worn debate onto you, but when I go back and re-read your comment, you are absolutely correct: you were clearly avoiding that boondoggle by talking about "success" instead of "correctness". :)

But then, I suppose my response is that we really are addressing two different issues. My original intent with this thread (although perhaps poorly or ambiguously stated) was to get a sense of what people thought was "good language" -- not just "a way of communicating an idea".

After all, hoots, points, and whistles communicate many ideas quite effectively. That's not the part of language that interests me, particularly.

Ago 12, 2009, 6:09 pm

Except for "quote" as noun, the others aren't that far off. But "quote" as noun is almost as bad as the one that REALLY grates on my nerves, which is "cite" as noun.

Editado: Ago 12, 2009, 6:30 pm

>19 gregstevenstx:, Cool. Glad we got that straightened out.

I'll just chime in again to explain the reason why I think that the "success" of an utterance is at least as interesting a concept in linguistics as "correctness."

Polling people about whether a particular usage is "correct" is akin to polling them about whether a certain man is tall. If the man stands at 6 feet, you'll get some yeses and some nos, and thus you'll learn something about how each of the polled persons employs the word "tall." What you won't learn from doing this is whether or not the man actually is tall. Likewise, a poll won't answer the question whether a particular usage is correct; it will just tell you something about how the polled individuals use the word "correct."

"Speech act success" (as defined in #13) is significantly less vague, though there are definitely some theoretical complications, and blurry edges. E.g., if you ask me what I'm reading, and I say, "Words, words, words," under what circumstances is my speech act a success? a) when you understand my utterance as an affirmation that I am, in fact, reading words, b) when you understand that I'm making a joke, or c) when you understand that I'm alluding to Hamlet?

Gotta go now. Looking forward to rejoining you all later.

Edit for grammar!

Ago 12, 2009, 6:33 pm

21: re: "Words, words, words"

See.... and I immediately thought it was a reference to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. *smirk*

Thanks for the discussion, polutropon.

Ago 12, 2009, 6:43 pm

They're all we have to go on.

Ago 12, 2009, 6:46 pm


Ago 12, 2009, 7:12 pm

>9 omaca: When I graduated with my linguistics degree in 1992, my parents asked me what present I would like. I immediately said the then-newly-revised OED, in one volume, photo-reduced, with magnifying glass. It is very dear to me. Of course, I could have saved them the $300, since now as a university account holder, through the university library I get free access to OED online.

Oh, and on-topic, I think language is organic and constantly changing. I agree with those who mentioned using different registers in different contexts. I am paid to be a writer/editor and use a much different, more prescriptivist register in that context than when I'm speaking to a friend, for example.

Editado: Ago 13, 2009, 2:45 am

>25 grammargoddess: I always wanted my own copy of Johnson's Dictionary and finally got one about ten years ago. I found the one-volume OED at an estate sale around that time as well. Last month, out of the blue, I acquired the thirteen-volume set of the OED.

Back on topic, I think our language continues to evolve. While reading this discussion I couldn't help but think of the old Society for Pure English, particularly its original prospectus.

Ago 13, 2009, 1:10 pm

>19 gregstevenstx: If the original intent is "to get a sense of what people thought was "good language" -- not just "a way of communicating an idea"."

My standard for "good" is communicating an idea through creative and novel uses of language. So long as it doesn't distract from the content, nominalizing verb stems or using any other tool of the language should be applauded - at least until it becomes cliché or otherwise normalized. All the better if the usage actually underscores the speaker's message, though I can't think of an example where nominalization would do that. Using the forms, phrases, and words already provided for you - however well - is merely adequate or satisfactory.

Of course, I'm speaking more from my roles as copy editor and reader than as a linguist. I would never attempt to do syntax or discourse analysis with the above definition, but I'd prefer to avoid terms like "good" in those domains anyway.

Ago 16, 2009, 8:53 pm

>9 omaca: - You have an OED at hand?

One miraculous thing we have here in England, one that is far less arguable than the relative merits of the NHS and US health systems, is a fantastic arrangement (I use the word deliberately as for me it comes straight from the world of scarcely credible fantasy) by which all citizens possessed of membership of their local library (comes free with local taxes) have automatic right to free membership of all of the Oxford publications on-line. The lot ... the whole shooting match!

How this came about in an England supposedly short of money and shorter still of truly educated individuals (IMHO) I have no idea. My best guess is that some lowly civil servant drew up the contract for a bet, and some port-soaked Sir Humphrey rubber-stamped it while preparing his cigars using the Clinton Technique.

But it makes my day - every day! On-line, it's quicker, much quicker, even on my creaky, Gates-ridden PC, than lifting the correct volume off the shelf and riffling through its pages. And it doesn't go out of date! And you can email them with criticisms, suggested corrections and the like. OK it doesn't smell like a book, but I have a most obliging imagination!

I can just hear the grumbling from across the Atlantic starting up now, that it's one of the vicious evils of our socialist/communist state!

Ago 16, 2009, 11:15 pm

#28 - I've got free OED access and I'm American so NRRRG! (That was supposed to be a childish "so there!" noise.)

My college provided the online OED for students, and apparently they don't take you off the list once you're an alum, so... well, I always say that's the best thing I got out of school. I mean, a BA doesn't do anything anymore anyway...

Ago 16, 2009, 11:41 pm

>29 ambushedbyasnail: ambushedbyasnail

And you paid, how much exactly, for your US college fees? :-)

I'm Irish, so I can relate to CliffordDorset's pleasure at the "evil" European system they enjoy in the UK. In Ireland, for example, we have free health care and free education; up to and including third level education. Yep, the government pays for college/university for every single citizen.

Unfortunately, I now live in Australia (well, fortunately really for many reasons), but Australia is trying to recover from over a decade of right-wing, conservative rule. The only country in the OECD where government investment in eduction actually fell (so I've heard), and the party that was ejected is actually still "proud" of their achievements!

Good grief...

Anyway, back to the point. Free online access to OED?

/jealous sigh

Ago 17, 2009, 12:15 pm

#30 - Well, $40,000 a year for four years. I guess maybe online OED access would have been cheaper.

But this way I got free OED access and the ability to pursue a further degree in library science, so, as I said before - NRRRG!

Ago 17, 2009, 8:51 pm

Yep, the government pays for college/university for every single citizen.

And just where does the government get the money?

Ago 17, 2009, 9:38 pm

> 32 PaulFoley

Where do you think? From taxes.

Yes, people pay taxes here and, despite the universal grumblings about taxes in general, are happy to do it. I guess that's the difference between evil socialist European models and the perfect, freedom-loving American model (/sarcasm).

I now live in Australia (as mentioned above) and am happy to pay taxes for better health-care, government investment in education, infrastructure, science etc. Why not? It makes the country a better place to live in, and a better place for my young daughters to grow up in.

Having said that, in Australia you don't get free education; however it is substantially subsidized. You have to pay a contribution through something called HECS (Higher Education Contribution Scheme), but even this is made easier though HELP (Higher Eductation Loan Program), at a low interest rate of around 4%, if I remember correctly.

Another example of evil socialism! My daughter has Cerebral Palsy (thankfully mild) and requires life long physio. The cost to me so far, after four years? I think about $127. I really wish we had the "much fairer" US system, so I could quit my job, sell my house and live a life of penury desperately trying to help my daughter... (/SARCASM).

Ago 17, 2009, 10:27 pm

#33, are you under the impression that we Americans like all this nonsense? I mean, sarcasm or not, it's coming off as pretty rude.

I don't like having to pay for my education, and would certainly love if the government would do it for me, but in the meantime I'm gonna pay for it because it's either that or work at a grocery store. I don't like paying an insurance company a few hundred a month to deal with my prescriptions, but it's either that, paying $1000/month out of pocket, or uncontrolled manic depression.

We make do, and we don't complain, further than your aforementioned universal grumblings. Whoever's got you thinking differently isn't representing the average citizen.

Ago 17, 2009, 10:47 pm

I started a cute, fuzzy little linguistic thread, and all y'all have hijacked it into a conversation about socialism.

Take it to the Pros and Cons group. ;-)

Ago 17, 2009, 10:48 pm

(p.s. i know better than to think I can control topic-drift; the above is more of a friendly appeal than an demand, obviously)

Editado: Ago 17, 2009, 11:04 pm

> 34 ambushedbyasnail

Sorry mate, I didn't mean to come across as rude and I certainly don't think "Americans like" it all. I guess I was ranting a bit. I was trying to be amusingly sarcastic and it seems it didn't work. Apologies to all.

> 35 gregstevenstx

Of course. My jealously at unlimited access to the OED got the better of me. :-)

Ago 17, 2009, 11:44 pm

Where do you think? From taxes.

So, when you say "the government pays for ...", you don't actually mean the government pays; and when you suggest that there's something wrong in the US because ambushedbyasnail paid for a college degree, you're not actually suggesting that anything would have been different if she were English... (So, basically, you're just saying that it's nice that other people are forced to pay for things you like, even if they don't?)

Ago 17, 2009, 11:54 pm

No comment. Wrong thread. I'd be happy to discuss somewhere else.

Ago 18, 2009, 6:47 pm

Back to the topic:

All that diversion made me, quote, momentarily nauseating, unquote.

Like, it was me what started it like. Know what a'mean? Innit? Woodent of dun it, innit?

Ago 18, 2009, 7:37 pm

How exactly DID "what" get to be a substitution for "that"/"who", anyway?

That doesn't happen in the U.S., but I've seen it as a slangy Britishism many times.

Editado: Ago 18, 2009, 10:40 pm

# 6

The American Heritage Dictionary I have from 1969 has a discussion of the usage of the word "alternative" after the defiintion. "Alternative is not necessarily restricted to a choice involving only two, according to 58 per cent of the usage panel." So according to the American delight in using statistics to determine properness, the word had already gone beyond the choice between one or the other forty years ago. As an American myself, I am not adverse to statistics in matter like this. One thing I do wonder though, is whether the original Latin word alter was restricted in its meaning of 'other' as referring to one other.

Ago 18, 2009, 11:28 pm

> 42 vpfluke

> The American Heritage Dictionary I have...

There's your problem right there...



Ago 18, 2009, 11:30 pm

I love the American Heritage Dictionary, but they get things wrong, like their usage note on loan as a verb.


Ago 20, 2009, 4:34 am

8, 25, etc> I grew up with the two-volume OED in the house - my parents still have it. Just recently - less than a year ago - I found my own copy; it had been _donated_ to my local library for their sale. Since I help sort books, I got it for $5 (they didn't think it would sell, anyway). Yipppeeee!

I also have the Concise OED on my Palm. That one drives me mad at times, with what it has and doesn't have (does have 'Euro-trash', doesn't have 'Europe'). But more often than not it has the word (that I'm looking for) and its origins, and it's wonderful to have it at hand.

Ago 20, 2009, 10:16 am

I just griped about "cite" when "citation" was meant in a newsgroup, and someone quoted a dictionary to tell me it was in there. I really wonder if that person noticed that it's listed as a verb--and ONLY that in an abridged dictionary I have handy. Does the OED approve it somewhere in a longer entry?

Ago 20, 2009, 4:18 pm

OED lists it also as a noun, with the earliest quote from 1957 in the form of "cite." (notice the period). Next one is from 1975, sans period.

Editado: Ago 20, 2009, 4:27 pm

A resource some of you might also be interested in is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage, (which is available on google books: ).

Ago 20, 2009, 6:51 pm

> 48 benmartin79

Thanks for that.

I prefer Fowler's Modern English Usage, but alas I left both my original and my Third Edition at home when I moved from Ireland to Australia.

That's a good link though!

Set 19, 2009, 11:29 pm

Quote and quotation as nouns have different meanings.

I used to work for an engineer and quote in engineer-speak means to give a price for a job to be done. An engineers will ask for quotes for a job.

Quotation means a verbatim iteration of something which someone else said.

Set 20, 2009, 7:11 am

>50 pinkozcat:

In the (British) engineering/scientific environment I worked in, 'quotation' was used in this sense, 'quote' being a rather less formal way of saying the same. The context allowed the avoidance of potentially comical errors.

Maio 17, 2010, 5:32 am

Reading The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell at the moment. Seems like a very smooth translation from the Swedish, but surprised to see on p.153 of the edition I'm reading (context: someone waiting for a fax): "The map of central ------- arrived momentarily." What happened then? Was it re-swallowed by the fax machine?

(I used dashes to avoid spoiler.)