*Farly – the loss of adjectival adverbializing suffixes

*Farly – the loss of adjectival adverbializing suffixes

Far is more often an adverb than an adjective (throw it far vs. the far hills) and “hard” is easy to find as an adjective, but in work hard, it is clearly an adverb, one of the ten or so monosyllabic Germanic ones which have lost the possibility of being followed by -ly.

Run quick(ly)
Talk low(*ly)
Run hard(*ly)
Write fast(*ly)
Aim high(*ly)/long(*ly)
Walk far(*ly)
Shoot straight(*ly)
Spell it wrong is for real people, “spell it wrongly” is for pedants. NOBODY says “spell it rightly.”
Dig deep(*ly)
Write big(*ly)/small(*ly)
Swing wide(*ly)
“Talk soft” sounds a bit hicky to me still, but I’m sure it will be the President’s English before long. “Dress warm” will take longer.

Slow(ly) are both possible, though when I was growing up, mavens were inveighing against things like “drive slow.”

Somebody should write an (incredibly interesting) thesis on this problem, because the loss of adverbial -ly is something that happens in Spanish and Portuguese for rapido “fast”: (vai comer rapido/rapidamente//lentamente/*lento/ devagar(*mente) = Go eat quick//slowly). I think there may be others in Brasilian, but I can’t think of any now. Yes I can! Bem means “well,” (“in a good manner”), and ***bemmente is a laugher. “pessimo” means “really bad,” and is an adjective in uma torta pessima [= a really awful pie], but it can appear with or without -mente: O Haroldo toca pessimo/pessimamente “H plays badly. I think in Maira pulou alto = M jumped high, altamente is impossible. Interestingly, altamente, like “highly,” means only “extremely,” not something like “extremely vertically” or “way uply”

In French, they have vite(*ment) “fast” [une auto vite “a fast car”/ Jean court vite “Jack runs fast.”] – I don’t know about any others.

In German, the process has gone to the max: there is no adverbializing suffix that would correspond to -ly. Goethe schrieb schnell(***lich) = Goethe wrote fast.

1 Comment »

  1. carlton63 Said,

    January 27, 2009 @ 8:11 pm


    Interesting post. I just found this on the OED:

    farly, adv (obs)
    Far, to a great extent or distance.
    c1460 Towneley Myst. 298 Farlee may we fownde and fare For myssyng of oure master Iesus. 1555 ABP. PARKER Ps. cvi, God sware unto them all that he would..sparple them, as runnegates in countries farly wyde.

    So farly hasn’t been seen since the 16th century. How about soonly?

    c1475 Partenay 4078 By me sonly distroed shall he be. 1654 E. JOHNSON Wonder-working Provid. 9 All people, Nations and Languages, who are soonly to submit to Christs Kingdome. 1829 W. TAYLOR Hist. Surv. Germ. Poet. II. 70 Hasten, my daughter, she said,..Coffee is soonly enough.

    I guess this only went out in the mid 19th century. As for rightly, this can be used as a sentence modifier: “Rightly or wrongly, this is what I feel.” I can’t imagine dropping the -ly on that one.

    Some of the adverbs you list only seem bad when in post-verb position. “I hardly slept at all last night” is good, but *He fell hardly to the ground is not. “My highly esteemed colleague” is good, but but not *Aim highly.

    Bigly survived into the 20th century:

    1902 H. VAN DYKE Blue Flower iii. 45 The youth grew hot with the joy of fighting and sought to deal with him roughly and bigly. 1913 H. WALPOLE Fortitude (1919) I. ix. 105 He was bigly made and his legs and arms were round.

    –Carlton Clark

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