Swingest, most swing

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Two recent sightings of superlative swingest 'most powerful in swinging an election'. From The Field on 3 October, about the state of Ohio:

And so it is a turnout war, plain and simple, in this swingest of swing states with a whopping 20 Electoral Votes.

And from the Daily Show on 7 October, in a report by "senior polling analyst" John Oliver (described here) on

the swingest of the swing voters

namely the stupid. There are also some instances of the alternative most swing, as in this story about the Not-So-Straight Talk Express (going from Massachusetts to Ohio to campaign for Barack Obama), quoting one of the organizers, Marc Solomon:

"It was the make-or-break state, and we lost Ohio last time. It’s the chance to go to the quintessential, most swing state and make a difference," said Solomon.

And in this story about Fred Thompson during the primary campaigns:

He participated in a fundraiser last night in Tennessee and will pickup his campaign kickoff tour in Jacksonville, FL on Thursday as he tours the southern most swing state in preparation for his homecoming on 9/15 in Lawrenceburg, TN

[Endless numbers of readers have written to say this example should probably be parsed as "southernmost swing state", which seems plausible to me. That doesn't negate the existence of other instances of most swing in the appropriate sense.]

In such occurrences, the swing of swing state and swing voter and the like is treated as an (attributive) adjective and so can have a superlative form — sometimes with humorous effect, but sometimes probably not. It is, after all, a useful word to have, since it conveys a complex idea in a very compact form.

Still more evidence for an adjective use of swing: occurrence with degree modifiers like very:

Dean is a dumb a$$. By refusing to allow dems to compete in Florida, he gave the stage to Republicans for three weeks in a very swing state. (link)

I live in a very swing district in what is, this year, a swing state (not for the first time). (link)

And the occasional comparative:

Both dis[t]ricts are GOP, but the First is MUCH more swing. (link)

(Examples with swinger 'more swing' are hard to extract from corpora, because the noun swinger is so frequent.)

And even some predicative occurrences:

Though Virginia, I note, has had more Democratic senators over the 20th century than Republican, and the Democrats recently won control of the state senate. Also, the state is swing now, and with Tim Kaine as the VP, could even go blue. (link)

Three variables—whether or not the state is swing, the percentage of the population that is Black, and the percentage of the county that is urban—are … (link)

The swing in these combinations is, historically, presumably a noun (rather than a verb, since new V + N compounds are rarely created in English, vanishingly rarely when the N is understood as the subject, rather than the object, of the V). It's surely not an adjective historically. But the fact that it can occur in combination with a following head N allows it to develop an adjective use. This sort of thing happens, most famously, maybe, with the noun fun, which we've posted about several times. Fun has two different motivations for developing an adjective use: its occurrence in N + N compounds like a fun time, and, much more impressively, its use as a predicative N, as in That was fun (potentially reanalyzable as having a predicative Adj). The development of adjectival swing shows that the first motivation can be sufficient on its own.

End note: swingest occurs in other contexts as well, fairly frequently, in the sense 'most swinging, swingingest", usually with reference to music or musical groups ("the swingest bands of all times", "the swingest hits", and the like), but sometimes in a more general sense ("the swingest cool cat on the scene", "the swingest part of Accra"). Yes, swingingest is attested as well ("swingingest big band ensembles of the '40s").

[Added 9 October: Mark McConville has unearthed some instances of swingiest in the relevant sense

[2004] Orlando is the swingiest city in the swingiest state in the nation" (link)

[2006] Taken to its logical extreme, this means a lot of time spent looking for the swingiest voter on the swingiest block in the swingiest precinct in the swing state that will decide the election. (link)

Swingiest is the form McConville would have expected, so that swingest just sounds wrong to him. My interpretation is that both are innovations, arising from two different routes.]

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