Submitted by Skeeter Lewis on October 27, 2012

Medicine or Medication?

When I first heard the lyrics, “Wake up to reality, use your mentality” I thought that Cole Porter was joking. You don’t use your mentality. You use your mind.

Here’s a list:

Medicine » Medication
Document » Documentation
Reason » Rationality
Mind » Mentality
Transport » Transportation

The list is seemingly endless when one starts looking. My point is that ‘document’, for example, is an official piece of paper. ‘Documentation’ is the furnishing or provision of that piece of paper. ‘Medication’ is the application of medicine.There are those who think it is classy to say “I took the medication” Oh dear me, no. Words have meanings.

Americans tend to believe that the British dislike of ‘transportation’ to mean ‘a bus’ is based on our guilty consciences about shipping convicts to Australia. Actually no, that was a pretty good policy. Where better to send them? ‘Transportation’ was the policy, not the ships.

No doubt there are, legitimately, grey areas but...no, I take it back. I’m not weakening.

So there we are, fellow-pedants. The battle-lines are drawn.

May I finally say how pleasant it is to find this forum, the only place I know of where one can sound of on such subjects without being told to take an aspirin and lie down in a darkened room.

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@Skeeter Lewis - My (British) dictionary defines medication as "a drug or another form of medicine that you take to prevent or to treat an illness" - the only difference between them being that medication is uncountable and medicine countable.

The same more or less goes for documentation - "the documents that are required for something, or that give evidence or proof of something". (I don't quite agree with your definition - you still need a verb, such as "provide", so "documentation" must refer to things, not an action, in this meaning). If you're being specific you ask for "a document", but on other occasions "Do you have any documentation?" might be more appropriate. And I would say the same for "leak" and "leakage". If there's one I would say "a leak" but if there's been an unquantifiable amount, I might say "leakage".

Much of it, I think, such as "transport" and "transportation", "medicine" and "medication" is simply down to usage, and especially between BrE and AmE. And I deliberately use the word "usage" instead of "use", because that's the normal word used when discussing language, and for me there is a real difference here. My dictionary again - "the way in which words are used in a language". And some of the main relevant works on the subject: Fowler's "Modern English Usage", "Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage", "Swan's "Practical English Usage", "Garner's Modern American Usage".

All definitions from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary.

As for "mind" and "mentality" and "reason" and "rationality", surely these are completely different words, and don't get readily confused, apart from in songs perhaps. And if it's Ella Fitzgerald singing, as far as I'm concerned "anything goes", "it's alright with me", because she always sounds "de-lovely".

@Hairy Scot, I'll go along with you about "eventuate" and "apprise", but I think "signage" has a particular meaning for planners and designers which is different from simply saying "signs" - "signs" are specific, "signage" is about signs seen as a group, or related to their design, and could sometimes be a more efficient use of language (notice "use" not "usage" in that context - there is a difference), something I thought you were rather keen on. "We'll have to consider the signage" suggests something more all-embracing for me than "We'll have to consider the signs".

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Skeeter,
I think "There are those who think it is classy" sums it up beautifully.
I would have "Signs >> Signage" at the top of my list.

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Signs Signage....Nice one, Hairy.

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Everyone says 'usage' to mean 'use' but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Why leakage? What's wrong with leak?
Maybe I've returned to me nonage.

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There I go again with the spelling mistake. Time for me to shut up for a while.

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LOL
Like me you have a dyslexic koybeard.

I have some more for your list.

inform -- apprise
eventuate -- happen

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Yes Hairy, I'll have to teach my keyboard who's boss.
'Eventuate' is a good example of a fancy synonym but my point was rather that 'documentation' (for example) was a furnishing or application of the object itself, namely the document. The word 'documentation' was then mistaken for a high-toned alternative to 'document'.

As to pointless fancy-pants words like 'eventuate', don't get me started.

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Will
Thanks for your response.
I agree that differences between AmerE and BritE have something to do with it. I also agree with your comments on Ella, who can do no wrong.
I am starting to repeat myself so, before I shut up on this subject, let me just say that my (old) copy of the Shorter Oxford defines medication as the action of treating medically, documentation as the furnishing of documents and transportation as the provision of transport.
More modern dictionaries recognize them as synonyms.
My point is that a useful distinction is being lost.
My lips are now sealed.

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Yes people now seem to use "medication", "meds" and "medicine" almost interchangeably. "Medication" (or "meds") tends to be a bit of a euphemism: some people don't like to say they take drugs, tablets or pills. I also think there's a tendency to talk about "medicine" for a drug taken in liquid rather than tablet form.

As for "mentality" in that song, I think you can (and sometimes have to) break the rules in songs so that the lyrics fit.

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@Warsaw Will
I have no issue with signage when it is used correctly.
My gripe is with those who use it as an alternative plural of sign because they feel it sounds clever.

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Another example of the "think it's classy/clever" genre is:-
assembly -- assemblage

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@chrisbolton20 - I think you have a point about the liquid vs pills thing, I certainly tend to think of medicine as being a liquid in a bottle. I can imagine a doctor saying "Are you on any sort of medication", using it as an all-embracing term.

@Hairy Scot - fair enough, but I haven't really noticed it being used that way. Nor as far as I'm aware, have I heard people using assemblage instead of assembly - do you have any examples?

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On Porter's lyrics, I think was merely to maintain a rhyme with word that has a similar meaning. However, I object to transportation and documentation being used in place of transport and document. I would rarely use transport as a noun and documentation I would expect to be used in this sense: "Our documentation of the animals is important to the biology community". I agree it should not be used in place of documents. Does anyone know the level synonymity of the words mind and mentality and reason and rationality because that would help greatly?

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I don't understand why you can't use your mentality.

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@Hairy Scot - I think this may be an example of what you were talking about - I would just call these signs - http://www.dailywritingtips.com/7-vehicular-vio...

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Sound 'off', blast it. Why does one always make a spelling mistake when laying down the law on English?

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