Hungover vs. Hung Over
A reader feels that the adjective to describe the state of experiencing the effects of too much alcohol should be an open compound:
I would be really grateful if you would address whether or not the compound noun ‘hangover’ retains its closed form when used as an adjective (‘she was hungover’). I feel irked when it does, and that it should become open (‘she was hung over’) but because I can’t define “hung’ or ‘over’ in the context of suffering from the after-effects of alcohol, I haven’t been able to force my case.
A tedious (if not particularly scientific) inquiry has led me to conclude that it’s every man for himself when it comes to choosing between hung over and hungover.
The adjective is hyphenated as hung-over in the OED. Merriam-Webster prefers the closed compound hungover, but allows hung over as an alternative. The Oxford Australian dictionary gives hung-over, and the Oxford Canadian dictionary gives hungover. The spelling and grammar feature in Microsoft Word recommends either hung-over or hung over.
Searching for the terms “was hungover” and “was hung over,” I found that the open compound seems to be more common than the closed.
Corpus of American English
“was hung over” twice as common as “was hungover”
“was hungover” about 128,000 hits
“was hung over” about 138,000 hits
“was hung over” on the graph from 1800-2000.
“was hungover” first appears in 1928, begins to rise in the 1960s, but remains much less common than “was hung over.”
Here are some examples from around the English-speaking world:
Hung-over Beale was O’Connor’s booze buddy—Brisbane Times
Tony Abbott accused of being hungover—Brisbane Times
At least Rob was drunk, high or hung over much of the time.—The Star (Toronto).
The hungover prime minister of Canada and his stumblebum cabinet members don’t know…—Ifpress (Ontario)
A new survey by Macmillan Cancer Support suggests that Britons spend 315 days—nearly a year of their lives—hungover.—The Guardian.
Welcome to the glamorous world of James McAvoy, extremely hungover movie star.—London Times.
Pilot jailed after flying executive jet from Spain while hungover from three-day drinking binge—London Evening Standard.
Woody Harrelson Was So Hung Over He Could Barely Stand At A Recent Movie Premier—Huffington Post.
Of course, if you are truly hung-over, there is simply no way you’re going to work.—New York Magazine.
“Come on,” commanded the CIA station chief of the hungover prime minister, “we’ve got a lot of work to do.”—Book about the CIA published by Simon and Schuster, 2012.
My advice to the reader is to save his feelings of irritation for something that matters and spell the adjective for “suffering from the after-effects of alcohol” as two words when it follows a being verb and as one word when it precedes a noun.
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