Today I was talking to a class mate, and then I told him that we would have continued working tomorrow because today we're saturated, but then he told me: "we're overwhelmed".

Can I say "I'm saturated" to express the fact that I can't bear (btw is bear used correctly here?) something anymore? Is that expression even used? Since he lived in Canada for a few years, I guess "I'm overwhelmed" was correctly used for the situation to express frustration, stress and tiredness.

  • No, that's not a valid expression. If you said that you were "saturated," I'd think you were a triglyceride. – Jacob Mar 12 '16 at 23:28
  • @Jacob Oh, no metaphors in your language then :) – nbro Mar 12 '16 at 23:34
  • @nbro There are hundreds of thousands of metaphorical uses which have become common in English, but this is not one of them. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 13 '16 at 11:19
  • There's an interesting related question here – dumbledad May 11 '16 at 8:23

The relevant definition of saturate is:

2) to cause (something) to be filled, charged, supplied, etc. with the maximum that it can absorb

"something" can be lots of things, but time or activity are not "things". So you can't use saturated here. Words like "overwhelmed" are OK.

As an example of saturate in this respect, if a store has many brands of cookies that sell well, a new product that wants to sell cookies there might say:

The market for (Cookie X) is saturated.

Or along the lines of the comment from @Jacob, "saturated fats".

  • 1
    I don't buy this. After a day reading text books in the library I could turn to a friend and exclaim "I feel saturated - let's go for a cuppa". That sounds right to me (given the context) – dumbledad May 11 '16 at 8:25
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    @dumbledad Yes, I think in the case of cramming for an exam, "I'm saturated" is a perfect metaphor for the specific feeling that you just can't absorb any more knowledge (since the precise definition of "saturated" is "full to capacity"). I think it could also work if you feel like you've got more work than you could complete in the available time (but "overwhelmed" works better for this). However, if the main intention is to convey the idea of being exhausted or "spent", I don't think "saturate" captures that meaning. – atkins May 11 '16 at 9:39

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