Saturday, October 16, 2004

Melancholy vs. melancholic and injury vs. wound

Should we avoid melancholy as an adjective? A reader hopes James Kilpatrick will agree that melancholic is preferred. But Kilpatrick does not. He notes that melancholy the noun was first recorded in 1303, melancholy the adjective just a few years later. And the use of both has been recorded regularly since.

He also touches on the difference between wounds and injuries, preventative and preventive.

I'd never heard the wound-injury distinction. Here's what Kilpatrick says:
Gary Clem of Granger, Ind., moves for a declarative judgment on "injury" and "wound." He offers a news photo of a young woman who died "of wounds she suffered in the crash." His point is that she wasn't wounded, she was injured. The court agrees. There is a substantial semantic difference.

True, a man's ego may be metaphorically "wounded," and a woman's feelings may be "injured." Considered literally, a "wound" implies some act of bloody violence, committed on purpose. Alexander Hamilton died not of injuries, but of a wound. The victims of last month's hurricanes died not of wounds, but of injuries.
The BBC's "Learning English" feature has more here. To sum up: Injuries are generally the result of accident or fighting. Wounds are generally damage to the flesh from a weapon, often in battle.

Here's Merriam-Webster's definition of injury:
1 a : an act that damages or hurts : WRONG b : violation of another's rights for which the law allows an action to recover damages

2 : hurt, damage, or loss sustained
And the definition of wound:
1 a : an injury to the body (as from violence, accident, or surgery) that involves laceration or breaking of a membrane (as the skin) and usually damage to underlying tissues b : a cut or breach in a plant due to external violence

2 : a mental or emotional hurt or blow

3 : something resembling a wound in appearance or effect; especially : a rift in or blow to a political body or social group


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