On workaholics, sexaholics, alcholics and etymology…

I have a bone to pick with you. You’ve all had a drink in your lives, I assume. You’ve all gone out and bought some alcohol? Some of you may have got rather too keen on alcohol. You might even have become addicted. you might have become an alcoholic.

The term alcoholic is a slightly strange one. It sounds like a religion or philosophical position. Like Marxism. But more logically it sounds like a medical condition. Like necrotic (it means ‘dead-like’) or neurotic (someone with a neurosis). It’s clearly an adjective derived from a noun – in this case “Alcohol”. Alcohol, according to various dictionaries, comes from a word meaning any distillation or essence – and eventually only to what was previously called “alcohol of wine”. So alchohol goes to alchoholic, right? It’s simple! Alcohol is a substance, and the person who is obsessed with that substance or dependant upon it in some way is an alcoholic…

Now answer me this. When in your life have you ever drunk sexahol? Or workahol? Or chocahol? I’m not saying that a couple of drinks of sexahol wouldn’t go amiss at the moment. Nor, for that matter would a draught or two of chocahol. But they’re not substances. They don’t exist! So how can there be someone who is a workaholic? Or a sexaholic? Surely a more plausible description would be a workic or sexic or chocolatic? Well of course, the derivation of each of those words is different – they come from different languages and have evolved in different ways – so you can’t generalise quite in that way. But what is clear is that workaholism is just wrong. Plain wrong. Offensively wrong.

According to this model, alcohol becomes to be based around the idea of addiction. That the ‘alc’ part refers to drink, and the ‘ahol’ the addictive quality. But where is this phrase when you look at truly addictive products? Where’s the nicotinaholic? Where’s the crackaholic? Where’s the heroinaholic? It’s absurd. They’re just ridiculous words. They mean nothing.

Addenda: This rant was yet another one to emerge from a cursory viewing of Ally McBeal, the most annoying television series of all time.