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Bemoaning the Dying of the Adverb

At a networking meeting this morning, a fellow networker told me about how she sees  adverbs, the -ly suffix in particular, disappearing from everyday language. The example she gave: A newsreader says that something is real hard when he/she means really hard.

She has a point. I remember the “Schoolhouse Rock”  song, “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here.” It didn’t explain a part of speech as well as the songs about nouns, pronouns and verbs, but it did a good job of showing how -ly makes a word an adverb.

Then another networker came up to me and said he never forgot a gift he received when he was 13: a wallet marked  “genuine artificial leather.”

I laughed. Since genuine means “actually having the reputed or apparent qualities or character,”  I suppose that something artificial is genuine. But in reality, the correct word is genuinely, an adverb. Artificial is the adjective; genuinely modifies an adjective, as “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly” dutifully explains.

I miss “Schoolhouse Rock.” I also wonder if people know what a suffix is.

Until next time! Use the right words!


October 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Know Your Prepositions!

I love Schoolhouse Rock. Growing up, I watched Saturday morning cartoons, and I knew that between the shows on ABC, I would see a bus driving some children to a little schoolhouse. Then the youngsters would get out and walk on the snowy path to the house. Then my brother and I would guess what we would see: Multiplication, Grammar, America or Science Rock.

Thanks to Multiplication Rock, I knew my “times tables” (multiples of 2 through 12) inside and out, and I could quickly recall the answer to any multiplication problem on the tables. This helped me dominate my fifth-grade class contest. I beat everybody in my class of about 35 by shouting the answer before my opponent.

Thanks to America Rock, my wife would hear people start singing the preamble to the Constitution in class.

And thanks to Grammar Rock, I knew my parts of speech: A noun is a person, place or thing; adjectives describe, verbs are action words, pronouns are shorter than nouns, conjunctions join words, etc.

But there was no song about prepositions. Not until 1993, when Bob Dorough, who wrote 20 of the three-minute songs, penned “Busy Prepositions.”

By definition, a preposition is a word (and a part of speech) that shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence. The “Schoolhouse Rock” song about prepositions says “nine or 10 of them do most all of the work” and then lists 11: of, on, to, with, in, from, by, far, at, over, across.

But wait a second. Far? Far is an adverb , so I could go to Lolly and get it there. Far also is an adjective, so I could find it hiking with my turtle friend. I would not find far with the other prepositions.

Some comments I have received since I first posted this tells me it is very likely that Dorough wrote and Jack Sheldon sang for, which is a preposition, but the video clearly shows the word far. Another listen to the song confirms this.

Bob Dorough is still alive. I wonder if he knows. Somebody find him and ask him!

In the meantime …

Until next time! Use the right words!

March 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments


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