Drifting clouds of etymology

Subject: Drifting clouds of etymology
From: Joanna Sheldon <cjs10 -at- CORNELL -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 3 May 1995 07:20:43 -0400

Sue reports:

>However, I believe you'll find that the term "vapors" as a fainting spell
>predates the antebellum era by quite a bit; Merriam-Webster appears to
>suggest the 14th century. Anyone have an OED for a more specific reference?

>Sheesh, I've never heard of the, shall we say, more aromatic meaning!

The OED says nothing about flatulence. The "vapours" arising from an
unhealthy condition of the body are, in all its quotes, said to rise into
the head. Interesting, eh?

OED on vapours:

"In older medical use: Exhalations supposed to be developed within the
organs of the body (esp. the stomach) and to have an injurious effect upon
the health." Earliest reference: 1422. "That the wapours gonne wp into the
hede in tyme of slepynge may haue issue."


"b. A morbid condition supposed to be caused by the presence of such
exhalations; depression of spirits, hypochondria, hysteria or other nervous
disorder. Now arch. Common 1665-1750.


c. so, The vapours. <...> 1719 DeFoe *Crusoe* 1. (The Globe) 161 These
things filled my Head with new Imaginations, and gave me the Vapours again
to the highest degree."

Maybe the extension of meaning to include flatulence was an American idea?


Dr. Joanna Sheldon
Technical Writer, Translator
(French, German, Italian)
cjs10 -at- cornell -dot- edu

Previous by Author: Palm Beaches STC Chapter Web Page!
Next by Author: Re: due to
Previous by Thread: Drifting clouds of etymology
Next by Thread: Re: Eng vs Writer, BULL, Writ...

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads