What is acceptable, or not, in English?

Sep 29, 2013

It's that time again! The time of year when editors at The American Heritage Dictionary send out ballots filled with questions asking what is acceptable, or not, in English.

On this edition of That’s What They Say, Host, Rina Miller and University of Michigan Professor of English, Anne Curzan talk about some of the questions that came up on the usage ballot this year.

Question #1:

It is okay to use nauseous as causing nausea? Example: That was a nauseous rollercoaster.

Curzan says, “At this point nauseous means feeling nauseated not causing nausea. I think nauseous can sometimes mean offensive, but for the most part I think it means that we feel terrible.”

Question #2:

Is it okay to use the word issue to refer to a problem? Example: I have issues with that.

Short answer: Yes. 

Question #3:

How do you use the word momentarily? Miller’s example: I will be there momentarily.

More people are using momentarily to mean, I will be there in a moment. “But in fact,” says Curzan, “historically it has meant for a moment, as in 'she paused momentarily.' But now, a lot of us are using it to mean in a moment."

Want to know who are the 200 prominent panelists? Click here to find out.

Click on the link above to listen to the full interview.