Saturday, March 29, 2008

It Really Is

I just found out that suavity is a real word. That's awesome.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ether Or

No, that's not a typo. Today's topic is the word ether and it's adjectival counterpart, ethereal. In what may prove to be the last etymological discussion in my so-called office, we were actually discussing the fleeting nature of such discussions and how an online forum would establish a permanence our groundbreaking discoveries had always lacked. Our nerdy word conversations now had the chance to survive for posterity instead of, as my friend put it, disappearing into the ether.

I immediately got excited in a word-nerd way, because I had been on the verge of describing the exchanges as ethereal, and I finally realized the connection of the two words. But I had to admit, I didn't really understand the phrase "disappear into the ether." I've heard it used, but I was always a bit confused as to how the chemical ether would be involved in anything's disappearance, other than someone who was knocked out by it and kidnapped.

Ether, as explained to me, has an interesting history. People used to think it was the chemical that constituted the upper reaches of space. So when something disappeared into the ether, it dissipated or evaporated into the soaring gulfs of the atmosphere. And something ethereal has a heavenly or immaterial quality. And whenever I do these dictionary scavenger hunts, the search always leads me to words I never intended to peruse. This time, it was rarefied, a beautifully ethereal word in it's own right.

Good night, now. I'm a dork.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Yes, I Am Nauseous

I don't know exactly why I chose this as the premiere post on this blog about words and their use. I just know that it was one of the first word-meaning issues I can remember affecting me. Someone told me that the statement "I feel nauseous" did not mean what I thought it meant. Being nauseous at the time, I didn't appreciate the additional burden of confusion. What else could nauseous mean than that I felt like I was about to blow chunks?

I think I eventually got an explanation, although the person who called me on this so-called verbal violation seemed to enjoy my multi-symptom breakdown and thus delayed his version of the truth. The basic idea was, nauseous describes something that induces nausea. Nauseated is someone afflicted with nausea. And I believed this myth for two decades.

Until I looked it up. And I must tell you, that is all I do. I get word meanings wrong all the time. I regularly bungle grammar rules. If I am an expert at anything it is my expert obsession with looking up rules and definitions I have forgotten or do not know.

Anyway, I love the fact that Merriam Webster's Dictionary provides a thorough rebuttal of the "you're not nauseous, you're nauseated" lexical legend. It's like the big brother who comes to your defense against the obnoxious bully. Except you, your brother, and the bully are all big dorky nerds. Still, it's a comfort.

From here on out, I'll probably only add to this blog when I come across a word or rule I don't know or any linguistic irony or anomoly of interest to me. I'd also like to open it up to discuss particularly hairy issues of grammar and usage. We'll see. For now, I'm out.

And no, I'm not actually nauseous at the moment. I'm just a dork.