Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: swoon, vb.

As a verb, “swoon” means either (1) “to faint” or (2) “to be overjoyed or enraptured” — e.g.: “Like a latter-day St. Theresa swooning in ecstasy, her visage is simultaneously lost in a spiritual trance and abandoned in carnal reverie.” Christopher Knight, “Branching Out: Victor Estrada’s Work at Santa Monica Museum Is Both Inventive, Grim,” L.A. Times, 28 Oct. 1995, at F1. But “swoon” does not mean “to slump or fade,” as some writers think, and the word should not ordinarily be used to describe the actions of inanimate things — e.g.: o “Whether the legal profession is suffering from a lack of respect or just a lack of good jobs, applications to law schools have swooned [read ‘slumped’ or ‘declined’] in the nation in recent years, down to 78,000 this year, from a peak of 94,000 in 1991.” “Law School Is Losing Its Luster,” S.F. Chron., 22 Sept. 1995, at A18. o “Nevertheless, Baltimore-area townhouse sales swooned [read ‘declined’].” “New-Home Sales in Howard Counter Decline for Area,” Baltimore Sun, 12 Oct. 1997, at L1. Language-Change Index — “swoon” misused for “decline”: Stage 1. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “The stronger verbal taboos have . . . a genuine social value. When we are extremely angry and we feel the need of expressing our anger in violence, uttering these forbidden words provides us with a relatively harmless verbal substitute for going berserk and smashing furniture; that is, the words act as a kind of safety valve in our moments of crisis.” S.I. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action 66 (4th ed. 1978).
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