The skeptical cardiologist was intrigued and disappointed to hear FBI director James Comey state that “It makes me mildly nauseous to think we might have had some impact on the election.”
Somewhere in my medical training it was drummed into my head that nauseated rather than nauseous is the word he should have used.
I was taught that nauseated means feeling nausea whereas nauseous means causing nausea.
Thus, if the smell of rotting fish makes me sick to my stomach I am nauseated by it but the smell itself is nauseous or nauseating.
On CNN Erin Burnett interviewed Senator Cory Booker regarding Comey’s comments and I noticed that Booker always used the term nauseating rather than nauseous. Clearly, he had learned the proper way of using the terms.
As a consequence, I have passed this rigid distinction on to my children and loved ones including my eternal fiancee’. (Another grammatical error I frequently try to correct in those around me is the use of “off of.” When off is a preposition off of can almost always be shortened to just off and writers who value concision can avoid it.)
Alas, it appears that acceptable usage of these words has changed over the years and the vast majority of my patients say they felt nauseous before they vomited . I try to stop myself from correcting them because I’m fighting a losing battle.
As WritingExplained.org notes:
Garner’s Modern American Usage says that using nauseous when nauseated is meant (Example: I feel nauseous) is becoming so common that to call it an error is to exaggerate. Still, The Chicago Manual of Style calls this slip-up poor usage.
Clearly the tides are shifting on the usage of these words. There is even some evidence to show that nauseating is now the preferred word for causing nausea, e.g., a nauseating ride, a nauseating smell, a nauseating odor, etc.
It’s entirely possible that 20 years from now my patients will have completely substituted nauseous for nauseated and nauseating for nauseous. Wouldn’t that be ironic?
Perhaps you find this a nauseatingly trivial post with nauseous concepts that nauseate you. If so, please get off my cloud.