Friday, February 19, 2010

The Case of the Vanishing Adverb

The adverb appears to have vanished from the English language.

The adverb, in case you're wondering, is a descriptive word that modifies (applies to) a verb. Verbs are action words in sentences.

Many adverbs end in "ly," and it is that syllable that has mysteriously disappeared. Doug Adams, late author of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe novels, once hypothesized that lost pens had run off to the planet of their origin.

I'm not sure where all these lost adverb endings go. I account for two of them in the first name of actress Leelee Sobieski, with slightly transformed spelling.

I notice dozens of missing adverbs every day, however.

For example, there was the high federal official who assured that the government agency was "taking things serious."

Sir, that would be seriously.

Few of my favorite authors bother with adverbs anymore. Kim Harrison, nope. Ilona Andrews, another big-time offender. Jim Butcher, too.

As for TV on-air reporters, they have been language ninnies for as long as I can remember. For an old gal, that's practically to the first days of television journalism.

I don't suppose there is much that anyone can do about this, what with spelling morphing into text message acronyms that students now believe are correct.

I can understand why laughing out loud is easier to text as LOL. What benefit is it to spell cool as kewl? The first requires less keyboard movement by hitting the o twice.

It does not even make sense phonetically. Cool is pronouned like the hoo in hoot-owl. Kewl is pronounced like the ew in Oh, ew, that's yukky."

But I digress.

The adverb is gone. I feel badly about it.


Ilona said...

The adverbs aren't gone. People just no longer employ them as dialogue qualifiers a la Gerald Durrell. I couldn't find my copy of THE TALKING PARCEL, but I have TWO IN A BUSH for you here.

Page 146. "I once", said Jim reminiscently, "set a fire to a bed with a hair drier."

Same page: Jim paused and sighed lugubriously.

Page 65: "Just a bit of a blow," said the skipper amusedly.

Page 184: Harry eyed me inimically. "Yes," he said cautiously.

The common wisdom is, most of the time when the writer feels the need to qualify a verb, they are using the wrong verb. That said, I use adverb all the time to achieve a particular effect:


Page 7:
"William exhaled slowly, trying to get a handle on his rage."

Page 8:
"Only outdoors, the children truly lived."


Page 1:

No matter how carefully I patted the chopped apples into place, the top crust of my apple pie always looked like I'd tried to bury a dismembered body under it. My pies turned out ugly, but they tasted good. This particular pie was rapidly losing the last of its heat.


Adverbs are still there. They are just less obvious.

TropiGal said...

I am honored that Ilona stopped by to comment. Thank you for clarifying the current status of the adverb.

I am a huge fan of the Magic Bites-Burns-Strikes series. I never read popular novels a second time, but I have made a special exception for Kate Daniels.