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Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Feb 26, 2007 12:14 am

• swoon •

Pronunciation: swun • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive (no direct object)

Meaning: To faint or be light-headed, giddy, as though on the brink of fainting.

Notes: Swooning seems to have gone out of fashion. 100 years ago the slightest mention of anything inappropriate (a vulgar word) let along upsetting (a death in the family) or exciting (a marriage proposal) would send a proper young lady into a swoon. Swoons were reflected in a characteristic gesture—touching the forehead with the back of the wrist. A picture of a swooning maiden can still be seen in the main titles of PBS Mystery, though hardly anywhere else. When swooning was fashionable, weakness was a cultivated trait of young maidens. You've come a long way, baby, and the journey left its mark in a trail of words like swoon.

In Play: Because swooning is a sign of weakness, it has always been associated more with women than with men: "Carmen Ghia swooned when she heard Philbrick refer to his underwear in mixed company." How times have changed. However, since it simply refers to giddiness, the brink of fainting, it is applicable (even today) to both sexes: "When Matthew returned from work the first day after his honeymoon, the unexpected aromas of Beverly's cooking caused him to swoon."

Word History: Today's Good Word is yet another of those extreme rarities: an original English word not borrowed from any other language! This one comes from Old English geswogen, the past participle of *swogan "to suffocate". This verb evolved into Middle English swow "to faint" with a past participle swoon "fainted" which became the verb itself a bit later. A slightly longer version of the past participle devolved into aswoon, an adjective-adverb "to be faint-headed, about to faint".
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Postby Perry » Mon Feb 26, 2007 10:23 am

Swooning seems to have gone out of fashion.

You don't hear of anyone getting the vapors anymore either.
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Postby engineer27 » Mon Feb 26, 2007 1:46 pm

I was told that the reason swooning was so common in the 18th-19th centuries was that young ladies wore their corsets so tightly that they were constantly on the verge of passing out anyway.

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Postby gailr » Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:14 pm

My dad said that the reason Victorian fainting couches are positioned next to the front door in museum displays is for a soft place to swoon after opening the bills in the day's mail.

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Postby Bailey » Mon Feb 26, 2007 6:54 pm

Only single ladies would faint over bills, Married ladies had Chauvinistic husbands to take care of such things. By the way, chauvinism [imho] as in "male chauvinist" doesn't mean heavy-handed [hard-a$$ ed] as so many people think but overly protective. Men tend to be fixers, women seem to want to do it themselves thank you very much.

mark chimps-are-too-short-to-be-too-anything Bailey

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