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  • Soporific means causing sleepiness. Something is soporific if it causes sleepiness. If the effect of something is sleepiness, that thing is soporific. It is not the effect of that thing that is soporific, it is the thing itself, which is a cause.

    Lettuce is soporific: the effect of eating lettuce is sleepiness. It is the cause of sleepiness--the lettuce--that is soporific, not the effect of that cause. It is possible that sleepiness is soporific (in that it tends to cause more sleepiness), but Beatrix Potter wanted to communicate the idea that lettuce itself causes sleepiness, not that sleepiness causes sleepiness.

    She apparently had a desire to introduce the word "soporific", but she did so inaptly. Instead of saying, "It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is soporific," she should have said, "It is said lettuce is soporific, that eating too much lettuce makes you sleepy."

    March 17, 2009

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