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The Many Dance Partners of "Enamored"

I was recently taken to task for writing the following in a blog post:

That's one thing with pet peeves: they're our pets. We're enamored with them.

Do you see the problem? My critic claimed that the phrase is enamored of, not enamored with. This is an example of a word that dances with more than one partner. Of is the most popular, but it's not the only one.

Filling Enamor's Dance Card

Enamor means "to inspire with love; captive," according to The American Heritage Dictionary, and is usually used in the passive voice. The Oxford English Dictionary dates it to 1303, and, interestingly, the first recorded examples of enamor pair it with on and upon.

Enamored likes to switch its prepositional dance partners. It's danced with on, upon, of, with, and even by. On and upon it now shuns. Of became a favorite by 1600 and has remained so. But enamored often waltzes with with, to the shock of a few. It even sambas with by, but rarely enough that many people consider that dance uncouth.

Few language reference works address the problem of enamored's partners. Some dictionaries list only of, never mind evidence to the contrary, while others acknowledge with. None I searched even mention by.

Usage guides aren't much more enlightening. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage briefly notes that of is the most common partner, followed by with and, less often, by. Garner's Modern English Usage takes the hard line, declaring enamored is to dance only with of. However, the guide is forced to note that enamored with is at stage 4 of its Language-Change Index: "the form becomes virtually universal but is opposed on cogent grounds by a few linguistic stalwarts." Garner may want to do away with the with usage, but he can't ignore its longevity or popularity.

Same Old Dance

With isn't a new partner, though. The OED's first recorded usage is Milton's Paradise Regain'd in 1671: "Should she ... Descend with all her winning charms begirt To enamour." The dictionary doesn't list an example that uses by, but its sibling, Oxford Dictionaries Pro, lists one. Google Books has a rare instance of enamored by dating to 1800.

This Google Ngram shows that enamored with has become more popular in books over time, particularly in the last 50 years. However, enamored of is still used more often and enamored by hardly used:

Yet enamored with is dancing more often. It occurred almost twice as often in books in the last decade or so, and it appears almost twice as often in recent Google News and Google searches. Even enamored by is putting on its dancing shoes a little more frequently:

Source

enamored of

enamored with

enamored by

Google Books (1990–1999)

31,600

10,400

1,350

Google Books (2000–2012)

28,800

20,200

3,310

Google News

1,040

2,020

257

Google

1.4 million

2.8 million

595,000


Enamored with and enamored by are less common but they are standard English. They aren't labeled "nonstandard" or even "informal" in dictionaries that list them. They've been around, consistently use, and at least enamored with is being used more frequently. The Ngram shows the gap closing between of and with usage.

Although that gap may be closing partially because there is more casual writing being published, that's not the whole story. The Corpus of Contemporary American English shows that academic writing — some of our most formal writing — contains a fair amount of enamored with instances (29) compared to the number of enamored of instances (84).

Should you correct those who use enamored with or enamored by? No. But if you're enamored of the of version, use it to your heart's content. It's not going anywhere.


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Erin Brenner is the founder of Right Touch Editing, a customizable editing service. She has been an editing professional for over 15 years and is sought after for her expertise in language mechanics. She works on a variety of media in all levels of editing. In addition, she provides bite-sized lessons to improve your writing on her blog The Writing Resource and is the editor of Copyediting.com, which offers advice and training for those who edit copy. Follow her on Twitter at @ebrenner or on Facebook. Click here to read more articles by Erin Brenner.

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Comments from our users:

Thursday July 12th 2012, 1:24 PM
Comment by: Clarence W.
Of the enamored, with the enamored, by the enamored.
Friday August 10th 2012, 9:55 PM
Comment by: jphmedisys (Montgomery, AL)
Concur completely & share your pet peeve
Monday September 3rd 2012, 9:02 AM
Comment by: darrell C. (avon lake, OH)
Clarence W., out of curiosity, what practice test did you take for the LSAT, particularly since I am interested in going to law school someday?

Thanks.

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