Headaches and sore elbows

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Curious about Language

Senior Member
Australia, English
In English we have a plethora of different ways of referring to pain and discomfort, and recently I have been wondering about the use of XXache and sore XX.

Perhaps this is a strange question, but generally we can say headache, stomachache, backache, and earache - other than this we usually tend to say sore elbow, sore knee, etc. I am very curious why is this? The only thing I can think of is that perhaps the former parts of the body are considered more prone to long-lasting discomfort and thus became "headache" etc, and other parts of the body were considered less likely to have such problems?

If anyone can shed some light on this, or has any theories, I would be very appreciative!
  • mjscott

    Senior Member
    American English
    We can also say, "My head is sore! My back is sore! My ears are sore!" Usually something is sore when we can attribute it to over-use. If my back is sore, it's because I over-used my back to move furniture. "It makes my head sore just to think of it!" is used when it would take over-use of the brain to sort through the smorgasbord of garbage that is mixed in with facts to come up with a distilled summary of what has happened.

    It's just a theory--as good as any, I suppose. Better than some, and worse than the best. My brain gets sore thinking about it!


    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    I don't see anything wrong with saying:

    I have a sore head
    I have a sore stomach
    I have a sore back
    I have a sore ear

    I'd also say:

    My knee is aching
    My elbow is aching, and I'm pretty sure I've used elbowache before.


    Senior Member
    USA English
    I think the OP is asking why we don't make compound words out of things other than head, back, etc., and the answer is that the other parts don't make smooth-sounding compound words.


    Anyone agree?

    Curious about Language

    Senior Member
    Australia, English
    Sorry, I should have been a little clearer in my original post. HenryHiggens hit the nail on the head, however, that is what I was asking, why we don't make compound words for all the other parts of the body that trouble us from time to time. My idea was that the ones we use them for (head/stomach/back/ear) are the ones that trouble us most frequently, and thus they warranted a compound word being used.
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