The Way We Live Now On Language

By William Safire
Reprinted from the New York Times web

The following is an excerpt that pertains to nutraceuticals:


A spelling controversy is about to explode about the word that means “a food or part of a food that has a medical or health benefit, including the prevention and treatment of disease.”Plain bread supplemented with calcium, vitamin D, folate, dietary fiber and a shot of St. Johnswort or whatever becomes a nutraceutical, unless you prefer to spell it nutriceutical, with an i, as in nutrition.

I checked it out with the coiner, Dr. Stephen L. DeFelice, now the head of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine. His spokesman explained that the 1989 coinage is spelled nutra, with an a, on the analogy of pharmaceutical, with its Greek root pharmak.

Reached directly, however, DeFelice said, “To tell you the truth, I was drinking grappa in Rome one day and nutra sounded better than nutri.”

That asserts “coiner’s privilege,” and the enhanced, enriched, jazzed-up food – as both noun and adjective – is spelled nutraceutical.