The APP in the title does not stand for an application for your phone or your computer or any other of the flood of digital gadgets on the market. It stands for A Previous Posting. I originally posted this brilliant essay on the use and misuse of certain words in June of 2009 in response to a request from one of my daughters, the one that lives, loves and works in Northern Virginia. The same daughter just commented on a recent posting and asked me if I would write something on the use of the word bodily, so now you know why I dragged it all the way here from fifteen months ago. I posted it specifically for her, but I’ll cheerfully share it with you.
Bodily fluids do not exist
A certain phrase is frequently—nay, incessantly—used on television and radio stations, in face-to-face conversations, in magazine articles, books, newspapers, pamphlets—in every element and circumstance in which English is spoken and written, we hear and read this phrase—bodily fluids.
A pox on the multitude of unlearned speakers—a pox, I say, on those that use the term bodily fluids.
Bodily fluids do not exist—there is no such thing.
The human body does not contain any bodily fluids, nor do the bodies of any other organisms contain bodily fluids—not the lower orders of animals, whether bipeds, quadrupeds or no-peds, not mammals, not ruminates or non-ruminants, not bees, birds, flies, fleas, ticks, termites, aardvarks, arachnids, reptiles, mollusks or crustaceans—not one zoological organism that exists among our planet’s fauna—nothing that flies, walks, runs, climbs, crawls or slithers, whether on land, in the air or in the world’s vast oceans—not one contains bodily fluids.
However, all contain body fluids, substances which are vital to life, including those that remain in the body at all times unless spilled in accidents, or deliberately spilled in altercations, up to and including death. There are, of course, specific body fluids that are expelled naturally through normal body functions—perspiration and tears are a couple which come to mind, but there are others.
Why, you may ask, would I say there is no such thing as bodily fluids? Well, just in case you do ask, I will answer in advance. Bodily is an adverb. Adverbs are usually formed by adding ly to a verb, and the new word is intended to take the action of the verb that precedes it (it usually, but not necessarily, follows the verb in the sentence).
An example would be, “He spoke softly.” He is the subject, spoke is the verb, and soft is the object of the verb, the word which takes the action of the verb, with ly added to show how he spoke—softly.
Please note that body is not a verb—it is a noun, and therefore proper English does not authorize the suffix required to transform it into an adverb. Body can stand as the object of a verb, as in “He caressed her body gently.” Her body is the object of the verb caressed, and the adverb gently tells us how he caressed it—that’s gentle with the e dropped and the y added.
But I digress—on with the posting.
Example of bodily’s proper use:
“The bum was bodily ejected from the club by the bouncer.”
This tells the reader or the listener that the bouncer (subject) ejected (verb) the bum (object) bodily (how he was ejected). Not only did the bouncer eject the bum’s hat, shoes, underwear and outer clothing—he ejected his entire body including everything he was wearing—by ejecting the bum’s body, he ejected him bodily.
Example of body fluids proper use :
On arriving at the crime scene the CSI investigators collected items intended for DNA testing—included in their collection were traces of semen, sweat, spittle, urine and feces (those CSI people are very thorough). That which they collected were traces of body fluids, not bodily fluids (judging by the above, this may well have been a sex-related crime scene).
And now, finally, the conclusion of this posting:
Nobel prize winners, doctors of medicine, doctors of letters, ambassadors, presidents (oh, yeah!), senators, congressmen and most egregious of all, newspaper columnists and virtually every talking head and commentator and journalist on television—all, almost without exception, refer to body fluids as bodily fluids—the misuse is so universally voiced that some doubt exists (mine) as to whether the proper term will ever be used. I fear that, similar to the word nuclear, the improper use of bodily as an adjective has corrupted our language and is here to stay.
Consider our penultima president (that’s the next-to-last president, the one immediately prior to the current occupant of the White House). He frequently had need to use the word nuclear, and he consistently pronounced it new-key-ler. Affected (and infected) by his eight years on television, approximately half the English-speaking world (my estimate) now pronounces the word new-key-ler. I predict that our current president, simply from exposure to television and talking heads, commentators and roving whatevers, even with his ivy-league education, may soon endorse that mispronouncement and make it mandatory by issuing a presidential edict—in that event, the word would probably appear on his teleprompter as new-key-ler.
A pox on the multitude of unlearned who use the term bodily fluids:
Bodily fluids do not exist. There is no such thing. Fluid in the body is body fluid.
A pox on the multitude of unlearned who say new-key-ler:
The word is spelled nuclear. It should be pronounced nuclear.
That’s my story and my complaint, and I’m sticking to both!