TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Drifting clouds of etymology From:Joanna Sheldon <cjs10 -at- CORNELL -dot- EDU> Date:Wed, 3 May 1995 07:20:43 -0400
>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