Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage by William & Mary Morris

An excerpt from the book Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage by William and Mary Morris, a guide which also includes a panel of writers's comments on usage, in this passage sensual versus sensuous.

HARPER DICTIONARY OF CONTEMPORARY USAGE by William Morris and Mary Morris. New York: Harper and Row, 1975.

About the Book: Two veteran authorities on words have produced the first innovative dictionary in memory. The book defines, interestingly and in depth, the usual basic accepted words in English, but it also covers idioms, slang, vogue words, and regionalisms. Then, as a special feature, it offers something new--a panel of 136 well-known writers, editors, educators, and commentators who give their answers to questions about disputed usage of certain words or grammar. This makes the book a solid but entertaining reference work.

From the Book:

Usage Panel Question: Thanks to wide circulation of sex guides incorporating the word sensuous in their titles, the distinction between sensual (pertaining to the gratification of physical appetites, especially those of a sexual nature) and sensuous (pertaining to the senses, especially those involved in the appreciation of art, music, and poetry) seems to have been lost, at least temporarily. Do you regard the distinction between sensual and sensuous as worth retaining?

Answer from Panel: Yes--82%. No--18%.

Individual Panelists' Answers:

Isaac Asimov: "No. Why treat sexual perception as different from other senses? Victorianism."

Hal Borland: "Those I see use sexual, not sensual. There's no punch to sensual or sensuous. Let's keep them properly apart, even in bed."

S.I. Hayakawa: "Yes. But it's a tough fight!"

Phyllis McGinley: "Each time we blur the distinction, we cheapen the language."

Wright Morris: "Yes, but I'm not hopeful."

Herman Wouk: "Yes, but a lost, lost cause."

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