Welcome to the Wordlady blog!

This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
You can also order my best-selling books, Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to do With Pigs and Only in Canada You Say. Fun and informative!


Subscribe! Fun facts about English delivered weekly right to your inbox. IT'S FREE! Fill in your email address below.
Privacy policy: we will not sell, rent, or give your name or address to anyone. You can unsubscribe at any point.

Follow by email

Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Swooning over transitive usages

Image result for swooning
Bring me my smelling salts! Don't they know it's supposed to be INTRANSITIVE??!!

I was quite surprised to see this on the Australian Ballet's facebook feed: 
It was a Brisbane builder who swooned Telstra Ballet Dancer Award nominee Nicola Curry from America to Australia.
"Swoon" used transitively (i.e. with a direct object, "to swoon someone")? How very biza... I mean interesting.

Is this just an Australian thing, I wondered.

Sure enough, I found more Australian evidence: .

Australia: General
The Idea of North: Ballads by Candle Light - Brisbane Powerhouse

Sat 29 Oct 2011 # Come and be swooned by the intoxicating harmonies of The Idea of North. This ARIA award winning group will sing a smooth blend of ballads including songs by The Beatles, Sting, Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder all on a candlelit stage.

Australia: Blog
How to talk to the opposite sex - The Age Blogs: Ask Sam

2007 2:41 PM . # Afterall I bet a lot of women are feeling ripped off after being swooned by these guys who have done the course on becoming a pick up artist and find after a short time they have nothing to talk about. # Unless all you both want is a quick roll in the hay, you will want to be able to talk for a long time into the future.

Occasional, but very little, US evidence:

Country/genre United States: General
Title How It Works: Clinton's “Reality Distortion Field” Charisma
Source http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2010/11/21/bill-clinton-reality-distortion-field/

. # I have to say that I too have heard a story exactly like the one described above from my professor. Women doesn't like Clinton beforehand but when he meets her, she becomes swooned by him.
I surveyed my helpful international editors' group, and only three Canadians, two Australians, and two Americans were familiar with this usage (compared to hundreds who were not). One Australian opined that it must be the effect of a popular morning radio show called "Swoon".  She also mentioned "swoon-worthy", which, however, is not uniquely Australian. 

"Swoon"  in the literal "lose consciousness" sense comes from an Old English word. But we don't say to a doctor, “I haven't been feeling well, and I've been swooning a lot”. Why not? Because the Norman French arrived, and they fainted instead.  "Faint" is a fascinating word that originally meant “pretend to be sick” (it is related to "feign" and "feint"). 

But, as with many Anglo-Saxon words pushed aside by Norman French interlopers, we didn't get rid of swoon altogether. A very important thing about English over its history is that it LOVES synonyms. If you think of "Reduce Reuse Recycle", English has NEVER been into the "reduce" part, but, boy, does it love to reuse and recycle. We kept swoon because apparently at some point in our history we decided we needed a word that means specifically “faint in particularly romantic circumstances.” 

And now it seems to be taking on another meaning as well. We shall have to keep an eye on it. Let me know if you have ever encountered this usage!

 P.S. If you find the English language fascinating, you might enjoy regular updates about English usage and word origins from Wordlady. Receive every new post delivered right to your inbox! SUBSCRIPTION IS FREE! You can either:
use the subscribe window at the top of this page  
(if you are reading this on a mobile device): send me an email with the subject line SUBSCRIBE at wordlady.barber@gmail.com

Privacy policy: we will not sell, rent, or give your name or address to anyone. You can unsubscribe at any point.


  1. I'm over 50 but I listen to a some Indie music because I enjoy listening to something new.The Zolas, an Indie band from Vancouver has a song titled "Swooner"... "that incandescent girl of Incan descent. When the arrows volley down will you stay with me? Build a fire out of pages of magazines. Someone like you don't come around every dynasty. A swooner, that's what you are..."
    The first time I heard this song I couldn't remember hearing the word Schooner since I used to watch movies from the 40's with my Mom. I was impressed and surprised that people so young were using it in the way that they did, whether it is correct or not :)

  2. | How very biza... I mean interesting.

    I'll stick with biza for now. I've never heard the transitive usage.

  3. It looks as if "swooned" is becoming a synonym for "floored".
    I have never seen it used transitively before now.


About Me

My photo
Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.