Grammar 101: Workaholics and Other 'Holics

I’ll admit it. I’ve used the word “workaholic” on more than one occasion, both spoken and written, but I also recognize that the term is technically incorrect and inaccurate to use. It’s one of those neologisms that was created at some point along the development of the English language, but its origin really doesn’t make any sense.

Basically, workaholic is a portmanteau, combining the words “work” and “alcoholic” to mean someone who is addicted to working. Even if the work itself no longer provides the same kind of satisfaction or pleasure that it may have provided in the past, the person persists and works well into the night. This is not unlike the phenomenon experienced by alcoholics.

However, the coining of the term “workaholic” is inaccurate. The “holic” portion of “alcoholic” does not indicate an addiction. There is also no such thing as “workahol,” so to speak, so the combination doesn’t work for that reason either. Other -holics have been coined over the years too, like footballholic and chocoholic.

Does that mean that you should avoid using the term “workaholic” altogether?

No, not necessarily. While it really bugs me when people say “PIN number” or utter other errors, “workaholic” has become an accepted word in today’s society and it is used so widely that the incorrectness of its origin no longer matters.

Do you have a future topic for Grammar 101 to suggest? Feel free to let me know through the comment form in this post.

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