Wake Up, Little Suzy!

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Jan Bringmann writes:

I have seen many use the word woken instead of awakened. Is this correct?

English speakers enjoy a large selection of acceptable verb forms that express the action of leaving the state of sleep:

Present forms:
wake, waken, awake, awaken

Past forms:
waked, woke, awoke

Past participle forms:
woken, wakened, awakened, awoken

Fowler made a manly effort to categorize the various forms as to transitive or intransitive use, but in the real world, I don’t think many speakers think about such a distinction.

The forms wake/waked/woke/(have)waked/woken are probably the most common:

Hush! You’ll wake the baby!
Blast! You woke the baby!
Wake up, little Suzy!
Has the baby woken yet?

The forms with the a- tend to sound more poetic or formal:

Sleeper, awake!
I awoke from my dream.

Wake always goes with up.

A much quoted comment from the American Heritage Dictionary suggests that Northern dialect speakers

seem to favor forms that change the internal vowel in the verb, hence dove for the past tense of dive, and woke for wake”

while Southern speakers

tend to prefer forms that add an –ed to form the past tense and the past participle of these same verbs: The children dived into the swimming hole. The baby waked up early.”

I suppose that this “regional note” may be based on some sort of study, but I grew up in the U.S. state of Arkansas where my cousins and I woke on summer mornings and dove into the swimming hole.

Likewise an informal spot check of native Southern speakers in my current circle produced more doves and wokes than diveds or wakeds.

Here are some web gleanings:

Ethics roundtable debate: should a sedated dying patient be wakened to say goodbye to family?

SAYS GAMBLERS ARE IN PANIC.; Jerome Believes They Have Awakened to the Significance of His Bill.

In the story that goes with this headline, Jerome is quoted as saying “The gambling fraternity is getting excited over this bill, now that they have wakened up to the truth about its full significance.”

If They Hadn’t Woken… (headline for an article about suicide attempts)

I have finally woken up to the fact that I have not got much to feel sorry for myself about.

Fawley was awoken by a sentry calling a challenge. He had put it from his mind and rolled over again when a musket blast ripped the night.

Finally an MRI of both brain and spinal cord revealed to all of us that the trauma of the surgery had awoken a dormant condition in my body that carried the label “MS”.

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7 thoughts on “Wake Up, Little Suzy!”

  1. I have to say I’ve always just either said “I woke up” or “wake up” and have never really felt the need to say “awaken”, etc. Guess that’s the country in me. 😉

    This is a great post, by the way!


  2. I agree w/Michele re: “woke up” or “wake up” and this is a great post!
    I still wish someone would respond to my query re: over-worked superlatives, i.e. “It was very wonderful” . . .

  3. Completely off topic, but . . .

    A manly effort?

    Perhaps we need a future discussion on potentially sexist terms that most people understand but that are prone to complaint. I can’t seem to get my mind to remember all the P.C. flavors of the day.

    Now, on topic . . .

    You make a great point that some words are neither correct nor incorrect in a given context but are, instead, preferences.

    Any ideas about why we have both “awake” and “wake”?

  4. Does the difference between — or having both forms — “wake” and “awake” have anything to do with reflexive verbs such as those found in Romance languages? Perhaps “awake” was used to refer to the act of waking up when referring to oneself doing the action, while the verb “wake” was reserved for describing the act as such done by others?

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