From the fourth sentence of the Edgar Allan Poe story 'The Oblong Box':

"…and among other names, I was rejoiced to see that of Mr Cornelius Wyatt…"

'Rejoiced' here is being used as a transitive verb, in a passive construction. The obvious parallel is with '…I was delighted to see…' which is the construction we'd expect now.

'Rejoice' isn't used as a transitive verb now. Can anyone suggest why a verb might lose its 'transitive capacity' over time? If 'delighted' has much the same meaning as 'rejoiced' has in the quote, why is 'delighted' still used exactly this way, but not 'rejoiced'?

  • 3
    Rejoice is both transitiva and intransitive: oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/rejoice -" I was rejoiced" appears to be a literary expression which was more common in the 19th century - books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – user66974
    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:31
  • @Josh61 that reference says [WITH OBJECT] archaic Cause joy to: I love to rejoice their poor Hearts at this season. 'Archaic' means 'no longer in use'. So my question stands.
    – Dunsanist
    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:36
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    I agree, please see my comment on 19th c. usage of the expression. Delighted is an adjective in "I was delighted" : oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/…
    – user66974
    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:38
  • @Josh61 but the ngram raises an interesting question. If a particular usage becomes rare enough (but not extinct) is it still correct? If you'd asked me "Is 'was rejoiced' correct usage?" I'd have said 'no', but the ngram appears to show it in continuous but decreasing use. If you put something that is plainly wrong into ngram (e.g. 'I is laughed.') surely there will still be a few instances that show up?
    – Dunsanist
    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:41
  • Okay, 'I is laughed' doesn't get any hits, but 'I is' appears with increasing frequency. Is this the influence of Jamaican English, or is there some standard construction 'I is'?
    – Dunsanist
    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:44

1 Answer 1


As pointed out in the comments, in "I was delighted to see.." the word "delighted" is an adjective, not a verb. As Ngram shows, it was once common to use "rejoiced" as an adjective in the same construction, but this fell out of favor in the 20th century; this story was published in 1844, so the use of that expression is hardly surprising.


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