Tis Pity He's a Writer

Richard Daybell – Novels, stories and short humor

Take This Verb and Parse It

"Snow White bit into the apple," said the brothers grimly.

Diagramming sentences – what fond memories that brings back.  Shuffling nouns and verbs and predicate adjectives around until they find their proper position on the diagram.  Those were the days, my friend.  However, it’s with some sorrow that I contemplate our dear parts of speech.  One of their number has fallen upon some hard times.

Pity the poor adverb.  Modern writing mavens pretty much eschew the adverb today – plucking it from the garden of good writing (or the garden of bad metaphors, if you prefer) as though it were an insignificant weed.  Okay, maybe it’s sometimes overused, but in moderation, like alcohol, caffeine and fat, it serves a noble purpose.

It wasn’t always considered a sin to associate with an adverb.  Some important folks have — as I will demonstrate.  Going way back to cite an example from a good book (or as many prefer The Good Book)  “Verily, I say unto you . . .”  Okay, all together now, what part of speech is that word verily?  You got it.  And it’s used more than once by you know who.  Okay, who wants to go first? Just step right up and say “Lose that adverb.”  I’d say that’s inviting a smiting.

Thomas Mann:  Hold fast to time!  Use it!  Be conscious of each day, each hour!  They slip away unnoticed all too easily and swiftly.

E. B. White: Be obscure clearly.

Mark Twain:  The intellect is stunned by the shock but gropingly gathers the meaning of the words.

Or you may remember that catchy tune by Francis Scott Key with words that go something like this: Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?  Call the adverb police.

And finally, moving into the future, I quote just three words from one Captain Kirk: “to boldly go.”  Now there’s a strong, sassy adverb coming to the rescue of a puny little verb and splitting an infinitive just for good measure.


One comment on “Take This Verb and Parse It

  1. Beth Crane
    April 1, 2011

    Long live the adverb! Be not gingerly in employing it.

    (Now there’s a cool example of an adverb masquerading as an adjective and another cool example of an adjective masquerading as an adverb.)

    Thank you for speaking up for the rights of the unemployed and the underemployed They could use you in Wisconsin, FIL.


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This entry was posted on March 24, 2011 by in Life Is (Fill in Blank) and tagged , , , .

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