Luke Taylor

Grammar Grater®

with Luke Taylor

Episode 10: Rough Seas

The topic of this week's Grammar Grater comes from a question we received from Jason, a listener in Irvine, California:
"Please discuss nauseated vs. nauseous. I was only taught that people feel nauseated not nauseous. Isn't that right?"
Thanks for the question, Jason. According to Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, nauseate is a verb that means to become affected with nausea—that is, the urge to vomit—or to feel disgust. Thus nauseated is to be affected with nausea. Here are some examples:
Eric was nauseated by the motion of the sea.

The motion of the sea nauseated Eric.
Meanwhile, nauseous is an adjective that means causing nausea or disgust, as in:
The motion of the sea was nauseous.
More to Jason's question, nauseous can also mean "affected with nausea or disgust."
Eric felt nauseous on the ferry across the English Channel.
The dictionary even included a usage note about this, saying, quote, "Those who insist that nauseous can properly be used only in sense 1 [causing nausea or disgust] are in error. Current evidence shows these facts: nauseous is most frequently used to mean physically affected with nausea."

Therefore, it appears that we're all right using either nauseous or nauseated if we feel an urge to get sick.

Here's an interesting fact gleaned from our research: the word "nausea" comes from a Latin word meaning "seasickness." And that Latin word comes from a Greek word, nautēs, which means "sailor." It's from that word that we get the English word "nautical," which means having to do with sailors and seafaring.

So if one does get sick while on a sea voyage, at least it's part of an age-old tradition.

Sources: Oxford Dictionary of Current English and from Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary.

Songs from this Episode: "Nausea" by Beck and "Body of Water" by Billy Bragg

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