(something) turns someone's head

Babuu

New Member
Czech
Native speakers' advices needed! :)

Hello, I need to ask you a question. Are you familiar with the idiom "to turn someone's head" within the meaning of "to give someone a high opinion of himself, to give him a false idea of his own importance" (The Penguin Dictionary of English Idioms); copybook example: "Jack’s election to the presidency of our union has turned his head. He has started talking about himself in the third person as if he were royalty!" (ibid.) ?
The hypothesis is, that American English speakers will link this idiom with the sense of "finding someone attractive - the one then turns your head". However, I need to confirm the first idiomatic reading, as quoted above (the first reading has probably its origin in British English)
Moreover, the main question runs: is it possible to say 1) Success has turned Jack's and Mary's head (or heads???); 2) is it possible to passivize this idiom - His head was turned by... (<<something>>, success, for example) ?

Thank you very much for any your responses!!!
 
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  • PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Hi Babuu, welcome to WRF.

    First, I have to say that "to turn someone's head" within the meaning of "to give someone a high opinion of himself, to give him a false idea of his own importance" is probably now obsolete.

    Next, "The hypothesis is, that American English speakers will link this idiom with the sense of "finding someone attractive"." is also only partly correct: that was my (BE) understanding when I read the title. However, the use of this idiom in its several forms, is old-fashioned and increasingly rare other than in "Have you seen John's sister? She's a real head-turner."
    Moreover, the main question runs: is it possible to say 1) Success has turned Jack's and Mary's head (or heads???); 2) is it possible to passivize this idiom - His head was turned by... (sth, success, for example) ?
    Yes, but unless you are writing an historical novel, you will not be using either.
     

    Greyfriar

    Senior Member
    Welcome too the forum, Babuu. :)

    Yes, 'turn someone's head' is a well-known idiom and its meaning is as you have quoted.

    In the USA context about being attracted, here in the UK we say, 'She is a real head turner' = she's worth another look as she is so attractive.

    'Jack and Mary's heads.'
    The passive, 'he had his head turned by' is OK.
     

    Babuu

    New Member
    Czech
    Thank you very much for your responce, PaulQ! I am actually writing a bachelor thesis dealing with English and Czech idioms with the components 'head' and 'heart'. There are some formal features usually linked with idioms. One of them is, that the voice may or may not be a part of the idiom. Thus, if the active voice is a part of the idiom "turn someone's head", the idiom cannot undergo the passivization without losing its idiomatic reading (however, the correctness of the "idiomatic sounding" can be confirmed only by a native speaker :) ). Secondly, components within the idiom cannot be coordinated without ruling out the idiomatic reading (* Success has turned Mary's head and shoulders). However, the possesive component under the idiom, "someone's" in this case, can be coordinated with semantic constituent. Thus, "Success has turned Mary's and Jack's head/heads???" should be OK, but the point is, whether the component 'head' remains in singular or it turns into plural.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    For president Jack or successful Mary, we could say "has swelled his head" or "has gone to her head". (If we want to say that this is not the case, we can say "hasn't..." or "His/Her hat size hasn't changed.")
     

    Babuu

    New Member
    Czech
    Thank you, ain'ttranslationfun?! But, if we were strictly speaking about the correctness of the structures "Success has turned Jack's and Mary's head" and "his head was turned by success" , what would you say, please? :)
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I'm only familiar with "turn someone's head" in the context of an attractive person walking by and causing heads to physically turn to look at him/her.

    I wouldn't say "success has turned xxx's head": the correct idiom for me would be "success has gone to their head".
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Thank you very much for your response, PaulQ! I am actually writing a bachelor thesis dealing with English and Czech idioms with the components 'head' and 'heart'.
    That's going to be interesting. :thumbsup:
    Secondly, components within the idiom cannot be coordinated without ruling out the idiomatic reading (* Success has turned Mary's head and shoulders). However, the possessive component under in the idiom, "someone's" in this case, can be coordinated with semantic constituent. Thus, "Success has turned Mary's and Jack's head/heads???" should be OK, but the point is, whether the component 'head' remains in singular or it turns into plural.
    This plural/singular body part is a fraught point in English but the singular is usually considered the better choice where there are distinct subjects, "Success has turned Mary's and Jack's head." Any ambiguity can be overcome with "Success has turned both Mary's and Jack's head." and there is no loss of the idiom.

    The plural is probably better where there is a general possession - "Success has turned their heads."

    Perhaps it is easier if it is not idiomatic:

    "The bullets flew over [both] John's and his wife's head."
    "The bullets flew over the reporters' heads."
     
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