Monday, December 8, 2008

Wonderings and Googlings (Wherein I wonder about words, then I Google them)

healthy diet = 4,390,000 hits
healthful diet = 144,000 hits

Traditionalists say that "healthy" means "in good health." They say that, if you mean "promoting good health," you need to use "healthful." That is, a healthy person eats a healthful diet.

That's no longer true. From Webster's New World College Dictionary:
1 having good health; well; sound
2 showing or resulting from good health -- "a healthy color"
3 healthful

This was on my mind today because the Los Angeles Times uses "healthful" this way most or all of the time. Or at least its Health section does. I'm sure that's a rule based on years of dealing with misinformed grammar-snob readers. Frankly, if I were them, I'd do the same. It's not worth the fight.

So I figured that, while a Google search showed a preference for "healthy diet," a Google News search was likely to show a preference for "healthful diet." I was wrong.
healthy diet = 735 hits
healthful diet = 28 hits


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goofy said...

I wonder where these traditionalists are getting their tradition from. "Healthy" has meant "promoting good health" since the 1500s.

June Casagrande said...

Funny. You kind of busted me being too lazy to look it up. (I can never slip one by you, Goofy!) Well, in fairness to me, "lazy" today means "busy" ... and not that I have an OED sittin' in my house anyway.

Anyway, that's for the historical info I was too hurried/lazy to look up!

LL Blackwell said...

"Healthful" has only recently become one of my almost-grammar peeves (I try not to have any real grammar peeves, cuz it's pointless anyway, seeing as one can't go around with a red pen writing on people's faces). More like I'm just starting to be aware of it as supposedly wrong, even though everyone does it.

Of course, does everyone jump of cliffs?

June Casagrande said...

I wish I could have learned sooner how much of this stuff is so not worth investing any emotion into!

Someone at another website asked me to weigh in on "I eat healthy." My answer: There are no good options. Either sound like a priss or get snorted at by prisses. I just say, "I eat well," or "I eat pretty healthy stuff," or "I'm down to five Cokes a day."


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