Wednesday, November 08, 2006


We all know that it’s easy to be queasy, especially on roller coasters and airplanes. The word nausea took root in an ancient form of travel.

In Greek, a nautes was a sailor, and he shipped out on a naus. So the original nausea was seasickness, though it has expanded to many potential causes and is even used to signify emotional or ethical loathing.

By the way, its inelegant cousin, puke, seems to be onomatopoetic: it imitates the sound made by a person throwing up. Oddly enough, William Shakespeare may have been the first writer to use the word. In Jacques’ Seven Ages of Man speech (As You Like It), we find, “At first the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.”

Sidebar: Selection from Jean Paul Sartre, Nausea

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