Nauseous vs. Nauseated & Other Issues I’m Over

The other night, I got a text from Laila, whom I’ve known since fourth grade: “Do you think ‘nauseous’ and ‘nauseated’ can be used interchangeably? I don’t.’”

“Nope,” I replied. “If you’re sick to your stomach, you’re nauseated, never nauseous.”

“I agree,” she said. “But someone who is arguing with me about it sent me this link.”

“I can look at this more tomorrow,” I replied, and went to bed.

Except I couldn’t sleep. So I went to Google and discovered this explanation from a helpful site called “Nauseated is how you feel after eating funnel cake and riding the tilt-a-whirl. Nauseous, on the other hand, should be reserved to mean causing that feeling, not having it. However, nauseous is used so often now to mean ‘feeling sick’ that dictionaries define it that way.”

This is yet another case of incorrect usage becoming so pervasive that dictionaries throw up their collective hands, shrug, and say, “Have it your way, then.” (While this seems to work well for Burger King, it’s not the best approach for the English language.)

Something similar happened a few years ago with the words “over” and “more than.” Back in the day, “over” was used to refer to spatial relationships, and “more than” was used to express relational quantity with numbers. For example:

  • She crossed over the bridge.
  • She ate more than 200 Cheetos last week.

You would never say “over 200 Cheetos.” That would be grammatical blasphemy. Except people did say it—frequently enough that, one dark day in 2014, the Associated Press Stylebook tweeted, “AP Style tip: New to the Stylebook: over, as well as more than, is acceptable to indicate greater numerical value.” And dictionaries followed.

But you know who didn’t follow? Me. No matter how many times I see “over” used in conjunction with quantity, I change it to “more than.” I know I should just “get with the times,” but it sticks in my craw. I can’t do it.

So how about you? How do you feel about nauseous vs. nauseated and over vs. more than? And is there anything that’s accepted nowadays that you just can’t bring yourself to embrace?

Until next time.

Word of the Week: Craw
Song of the Week:I Know It’s Over,” The Smiths


    • Mindy Kroll says

      That’s right! The green bun. You’d think I’m a big fan of Burger King, but I’m really not. I actually prefer McDonald’s (best French fries).

  1. Kim Greenspan says

    Mindy, this is how people like us become known as “old fashioned,” “stubborn,” “cranky” and “outdated.” But I’ll wear those labels proudly if it means standing up for proper English rather than caving to the lowest common denominator.

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