Grammar Moses: The irony of describing action with a noun

Those of you who know me well are aware that I am not a coffee drinker.

The only time I tried it was in 1987, while interviewing then-Roselle Village Manager Glenn Spachman in his office. He offered me some in a 6-ounce Styrofoam cup, and it was so repulsive that I vowed to never try it again. I don't recall having done a spit take in front of him, but I imagine he enjoyed whatever face I must have made after choking it down.

However, I do have a serious Coke Zero habit.

Occasionally, the paltry 34 milligrams of caffeine a Zero offers isn't enough.

I preface this with the disclosure that I have not been asked for or compensated for any product endorsements: My wife purchased a box of VERB snack bars, which, in less than an ounce, deliver a payload of 80 milligrams of caffeine, which is enough on most days to give me the impetus to walk the subdivision.

Yep, that's the same amount of go-chemicals you'll find in a shot of espresso.

I think it is clever that the E leans forward in italic.

Everything about this little wonder screams action, with one exception: "Verb" is a noun.

Go figure.

Go, Leafs!

Bob Porter was rooting for one of his grandsons at a hockey game and wasn't sure how to cheer the team on.

"His team's name is Leafs. So would he be a 'Leaf' and the team be 'the Leaves' or 'the Leafs'?" he wrote. "Or should I just leave it alone?"

Clearly, Bob is not Canadian. The Toronto Maple Leafs have won 13 Stanley Cups, the second most in all of the NHL (but not for the last 56 seasons after blowing an opportunity to keep this season alive against the Florida Panthers in Round 2 of the playoffs.)

Leafs fans know the score.

Bob's inclination is to go with "Leafs" given that it is a formal name and not beholden to grammar conventions.

And that answer lights the lamp.

I've written before about how a player on the Cubs is a Cub, but a player on the White Sox is a Sox player, not a Sock.


Jim Anderson asked me to explain the correct use of "nauseated" and "nauseous."

"I hope it doesn't get you sick to your stomach," he wrote.

It makes me a little wistful, actually. In my youth, my mom would tease me if I told her I was "nauseous."

"I'm guessing you're nauseated," she would tell me. "If you're nauseous, you make other people nauseated."

I'm pretty sure this was accompanied by a knowing wink.

Of course, what your mom tells you is gospel, right?

Linguist extraordinaire Bryan A. Garner sides with Mom but calls using "I felt nauseous" a Stage 4 misuse of "I felt nauseated."

And in his parlance, that means it is in the final stage before general acceptance.

He made this ruling six years ago.

Just for grins, I took a look at what Google's Ngram Viewer shows.

In books published in English, the traditional "felt nauseated" was surpassed by "felt nauseous" in 1996. These days, the "misuse" is twice as popular as the original.

And that's how language changes.

Write carefully!

• Jim Baumann is vice president/executive editor of the Daily Herald. You can buy Jim's book, "Grammar Moses: A humorous guide to grammar and usage," at Write him at

and put "Grammar Moses" in the subject line. You also can friend or follow Jim at

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