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I pinged a friend saying that I am feeling giddy and dizzy. She mistook me for being happy and thought I was expressing a positive feeling, while I was actually feeling sick and disoriented. Do we use the words giddy and dizzy to express happiness or excitement?

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One commonly used meaning of giddy is frivolous or impulsive; the phrase giddy with excitement uses this meaning. It's not exactly the same as happiness, but it can mean overwhelmingly excited. However, dizzy is not generally used to mean excited, though excitement can have that effect. Other than its main meaning of having a sensation of whirling and a tendency to fall, it has more of a connotation of thoughtless or confused.

If I had received the message, I would have come to the conclusion that you were not feeling well, since you used the word dizzy. If you had said "I am feeling giddy and dizzy with excitement", then I would have known you were describing the extent of your excitement, rather than the state of your health. And if you had said "I am feeling giddy", I would probably have pinged you back asking in what way you felt giddy—with excitement, or with disorientation. So if you aren't feeling well, dizzy is a better word to use than giddy, since giddy can also mean excited.

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  • Thanks for your reply! If someone else had pinged me saying that he/she felt giddy and dizzy i would have concluded that he/she was ill. Perhaps, a sudden ping like this would confuse the person on the other end.
    – Kraja
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 19:36
  • However, is giddy and dizzy colloquially used to express a state of excitement?
    – Kraja
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 19:37
  • I did mention in my answer that by itself, giddy does, but dizzy doesn't really.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 19:38
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Dizzy was very appropriate, but (as a native english speaker in America) I have never heard giddy used in that sense. To me, giddy always means overwhelmingly excited.

If you want to emphasize that you feel unwell, avoid saying "giddy."

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    When I looked up giddy in the dictionary, I found that it means "dizzy" and "unsteady". Still, Noah is right; I've also usually heard the word used colloquially in a more positive sense: the young lovers were giddy with excitement. If I wanted to say that I was feeling ill, I would have probably gone for woozy and dizzy. Still, the fault probably lies on us hearers; when I looked up the word giddy in dictionaries and corpuses, I found no compelling reason to always associate it with something positive – in fact, quite the opposite.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 21:47
  • Descriptive linguists would tell you that lanuage is constantly evolving and the hearers have a better understanding than the dictionaries ever could. :)
    – Noah
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 21:56
  • That's one side of the coin, for sure. On the other, I'm always very hesitant to say, "I'm right; it's the dictionary that's wrong!" This wasn't the first time I've learned that a word was defined differently than I had expected, and I doubt it'll be the last.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 23:36
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Yes. My first impression was that the word pattern was similar to some lines from a once very popular song in West Side Story that go, "I feel pretty and witty and gay" / "I feel dizzy/ I feel sunny/ I feel fizzy and funny and fine" etc. There is a parody at kurtfstone.com that changes it to: "I feel nifty/ I feel witty and giddy and gay. David Sederis titled one of his books "Me Talk Pretty One Day" which also might be a nod to the song in the musical.

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