I used to think a vomitorium was the place where self-indulgent romans would go to purge their over-stuffied bellies so they could have another round of over-eating. In a grammar and vocabulary dialog with a left-coast colleague of mine, I said the following as we discussed backformation:
In writing about backformation, I just found another horrendous one [backformation]. I just used this sentence:
“Edit” was backformed from “editor.”
I guess I could have written this:
“Edit” was backformated from “editor.”
Where, pray tell, is the vomitorium?
After the conversation, I recalled that in the movie Hanna (which I totally loved), the character of Sophie was fond of the word “vomitorium.” I wanted to find the exact line from the movie because I thought it was so amusing. As I looked for it, I discovered two entries for the Valley of Wrongness. The first entry goes to me for not knowing the correct definition of vomitorium and using that incorrect definition since I first saw I Claudius as a young teen. I thought it was a socially acceptable place to practice bulemia. The good folks at Dictionary.com say otherwise:
Main Entry: vomitorium
Part of Speech: n
Definition: in a theater or stadium, esp. ancient, a passageway leading to and from the seating
Etymology: Latin vomitorius, alluding to the path’s discharging of the spectators
That makes perfectly good sense. Then, they put the nail in the coffin of my Wrongness when they stated:
Word Origin & History
1754, “passage or opening in an ancient amphitheater, leading to or from the seats,” from L. (Macrobius, Sat. , VI.iv); see vomit. Erroneous meaning “place where ancient Romans (allegedly) deliberately vomited during feasts” is attested from 1923.
The second entry in the Valley of Wrongness goes to the dozens of sites that stated “vomitorium” was nothing more than teenage jargon. I’m only slightly better than them. I knew it was a real word. I just didn’t know what it meant.