The expression to be taken aback is very common; a typical example sentence (that I just made up) would be
I was taken aback by the way she laughed.
However, I sometimes find myself wanting to say this in the active voice:
The way she laughed took me aback.
Something strikes me as not wrong, but decidedly nonstandard about this, but I don't know why. The set expression is X was taken aback by Y, which should be transformable by normal English grammar in to Y took X aback.
Searching in Google Books, I found 23,300 results for "took me aback" and 377,000 for "I was taken aback", which corroborates my intution that while both are grammatically possible, the active version seems less acceptable or at least less common in the register of written English.
So, my question:
- Am I correct that "taken aback" is sort of nonstandard in the active?
- If so, why? And are there any parallels to other expressions that are pretty much only ever used in the passive? I can't really think of any.