Thursday, April 8, 2010

swan the verb, part 2

In swan the verb, part 1, I cited as the source for three senses of swan the verb and promised to talk about the etymology of the second sense -- "[to] move about aimlessly or without any destination, often in search of food or employment" -in a future blog.

With all due respect to AudioEnglish, I believe swan in this sense is a prepositional verb. Swanning off is the usage that has stuck with me from a Monty Python episode, but the only documentation I can find is for swanning about.

In a board meeting within the last six months or so, I found myself talking about swanning off to do something or other. Later I realized I had no clear idea of what I was talking about, except that I was quoting Monty Python. Naturally I turned to Google, where gave the meaning I'd intuited from context: "If you describe someone as swanning around or swanning off, you mean that they go and have fun, rather than working or taking care of their responsibilities." gives an etymology based on the hunting of swans in medieval England. According to the Sea Dog, only royalty were allowed to hunt swans, but commoners were permitted to do so on specially designated days. Imagine a "gone swanning" sign on the door of a shop.This story makes me feel confident about my use of swanning off in meetings or casual conversation, but it leaves me with questions.

BTW, the "Old Sea Dog's" name is Steve, and he features Idaho Dawn on his website. So swanning about on the web has led me to the Union Pacific Station in Boise -- a fitting destination but not, anymore, for trains.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License