Terminology Question: Hunger "Pains" Or "Pangs"

A friend is participating in one of those direct marketing businesses, and handed me one of their brochures to read.

Well, right away I got out my red pencil and started making corrections while she stood there with her mouth open, and this was one of the words I took issue with.

I looked it up on google, and indeed, there is a such a term as “hunger pains”, but given the context of the product mentioned (a natural diet aid), I didn’t think “pains” was appropriate, and I said as much. Her reply was that yes, she knew that, but if they used “pangs”, people wouldn’t know what was meant.

So I asked her if her company thought their clients were stupid, and well, things went to hell from there.

Another phrase I had problems with was “hunger switch” (quotes mine). The way it was written was without quotes, so I asked her to show me where on my body this switch was located. The reason for the quotes, IMO, is to show that the company knows there is no such thing, but this term makes it easier to undertsand than the more scientific explanation.

Needless to say, she didn’t take that very well either and told me I needed to find something else to do.

Other errors I found were unnecessary hyphens, and places where correct punctuation was missing.

My point is that if I noticed this, how many others did as well?

Am I being too anal? Or should this be considered constructive criticism?

Having said that, let me add that I, too, make mistakes, many of them here, so I don’t consider myself King Shit of Turd Mountain.

So what do you think?



Pangs is the actual correct term, and not using it just because some of the more ignorant types “won’t understand” is just contributing to increasing ignorance. It’s pangs, dammit.

And while I’m at it it’s “fazed”, not “phased”…

It is “pangs” that is correct, and using the phrase “hunger pains” does grate (IMO) but I fear this is one of the words that the incorrect usage has become so commonplace that it might soon be acceptable. :frowning:

Much like “I couldn’t care less” vs. “I could care less”. The incorrect (IMO) phrase became so well used that people try to explain it away as being correct. ‘It supposed to be sarcastic’ etc. “Hunger pains” has similar proponents whose explanations will go like this: Hunger pangs hurt, thus are pains, and who uses 'pangs" anyway? So hunger pains makes sense.

I do not agree with the logic of either and will defend “pangs” until I can’t defend it any more. :wink: I wonder if the same people who experience hunger pains also have pains of guilt, pains of regret of even pains of conscience for (often knowingly) using the wrong word. :slight_smile:

Never proofread anything unless you’ve been asked to. Lots of people hate having their errors pointed out. That’s why your friend was annoyed - the individual errors aren’t the issue.

(I did once walk into a classroom to find a CV on the desk and assumed it belonged to one of my students, because I was given a student’s CV to correct almost daily. I made about twenty corrections in red pen and then began explaining to the student whose desk the CV was on why I’d made those changes. Halfway through the lesson the door opened and a teacher popped his head in: ‘did I leave my CV here?’ Oops. :D)

Pang originally meant “pain.” Note, too, that it originally wasn’t plural.

“Pain” also predates “pang.”

Essentially, the two words are synonyms. Both are correct.

The OED can be such a pang in the neck sometimes.

I would have left all the errors just to make it look as amateurish and ill-informed as it probably was.

And you wouldn’t feel a single pane of gilt.

Quasi darling, if ANYbody is King Shit of Turd Mountain, it’s you.


Pang it.

Pang. It hurts so good.


Bow down before me, ye cute fartlings!:);):smiley:


Huh. I’ve always thought hunger pangs and hunger pains were two different things. I thought the former meant a psychological component that makes you want to eat, while the latter was physical, and actually meant your stomach hurt because you hadn’t eaten in a while.

And, Quasi, I didn’t realize you were up and up on current slang. :smiley:

Purely coincidental, T! i thought I had made it up! :slight_smile:


I call it the “hungry horribles”, or hunger pangs.

‘Hunger pangs’ is the technical term for painful contractions of the stomach/intestines when you are also hungry*. It’s in the medical dictionary.

So I would say you are right. Although I hear people say ‘hunger pains’ all the time, and ‘pangs’ being used for any desire or impulse to eat.

*I only get them when my stomach is completely empty, and they do hurt and feel almost like a cramp.

The meanings and histories of the words don’t really have much to do with how either of them collocates with ‘hunger’, though.

My Oxford Collocations lists the phrase as ‘pangs of hunger’, and lists ‘hunger pangs’ in the HUNGER + NOUN subcategory.

Under ‘pang’ I found ‘hunger pangs’ and ‘birth pangs’. And no collocation with ‘hunger’ under ‘pain’.

Presently, I think it’s safe to say that ‘hunger pains’ is a decidedly marked collocation, and can be said to be incorrect, especially in a situation when the writer or speaker does not want a marked collocation, but simply wants to use a common phrase.

I can’t recall ever hearing anyone IRL saying ‘hungerpains’, though somehow I was aware that people do say it. Even as a child I could tell the difference between being hungry (i.e., ‘the desire or impulse to eat’) and the contractions of my guts.

The ‘wrong terms’ that catch my ears include ‘hip displeasure’ and ‘ortopsy’.

For all intensive purposes, I’m not fazed by this and I could care less.