This Is Why i Don’t Sleep

Don’t you lie awake nights wondering how many words end with “-ly” that are NOT adverbs?

Me, too!! Here’ s my list from last night; add your own, please! Note that almost all of mine are adjectives, and also that most are adjectives that you’d rather not be! I wonder why that is. A good language historian, like John McWhorter, could tell us, i’m sure. But figuring out how to get in touch with John McWhorter … that’s a job for another night.

Anyway, in alphabetical order, here are the adjectives i’ve thought of so far: bristly, burly, comely, courtly, cowardly (how come there are  no “heroly” men?), deadly, early (i know this is ALSO an adverb, but i decided to admit such words to this list because it seemed like the gentlemanly thing to do), friendly, frilly, gentlemanly, ghastly, ghostly, giggly, girly, gnarly, gravelly, grisly, gristly, heavenly,  hilly, holy, homely, jolly,  jowly, kindly, knightly, lively, lovely, lowly, manly, masterly, matronly, mealy, melancholy, neighborly, niggardly, oily, pebbly, pimply, portly, prickly, princely, roly-poly, scraggly, seemly, shapely, sickly, silly, slovenly, sly, smelly, spindly, squiggly, squirrelly, studly (should we allow that one?), surly, timely, treacly, ugly, ungainly (Where are all the “gainly” people? We hardly ever hear about them), unseemly, untimely, womanly, and woolly. (To spare readers unnecessary torture, i deliberately omitted all words like easterly, westerly, northerly, north-northwesterly, southeasterly, etc. Likewise for daily, hourly, monthly, yearly, biweekly, semimonthly, etc.)

The nouns: ally, anomaly, belly, bully, butterfly*, contumely, dilly, doily, dolly, filly, gully, holly, jelly, lily, monopoly, panoply, philately, pully and tally. (Pretty sickly list, right? But i’m so proud of “contumely”!) (I disdain to include the nouns caddisfly, fruitfly, dragonfly, etc., as too easy, and in fact have included “fly” itself in the “verb” section below.)

And finally, the only verbs i could think of last night: dally, fly*, ply, rally, sally and sully.

Come on, everyone! Send me your non-adverb “-ly” words! If we get a big enough list, maybe we can send it to the Guinness Book of Records and set the record for … something-or-other! (And now, sleep peacefully, knowing that i’ll be up all night trying to think of a good category for such an effort.)

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7 thoughts on “This Is Why i Don’t Sleep”

  1. Genie, Love your blog. How many adjectives can one squash in one sentence? Here are a few more. Only new ones to your list count. Hope my grammar is correct. It was never a good as yours. I gave up after 7 new ones in one sentence. Time to go back to work on photo editing.

    As an only child, I was always an early bird, so one awfully sunny day we decided to take a leisurely drive to the (probably should be one here, but could not think fast enough) countryside, where we saw a cowardly fox cross the freshly blacktopped pavement and run into the stately forest.

    Ken :)}

  2. Oh, cool, GOOD JOB, Ken! I never would have thought of “only,” because i think of it ONLY in its adverbial sense. But, “only child!” Of course! And, “early”! How did i miss that one?! Plus, your “leisurely,” “cowardly” and “stately” are great additions to my collection. (“Awfully,” “freshly” and “probably” are adverbs in your sentence, modifying adjectives.) Keep thinking, and THANKS!!

  3. I would just note that in early English, many adjectives were formed by adding “lic” to nouns. There’s almost a full column in the OED about it (under “-ly suffix 1”–the next article is “-ly suffix 2,” concerning the formation of adverbs). In some ways it lives on in the suffix “ish”–as in manish (manly), girlish (girly), and heymish (heimlich in German, homey in English, but not homely). The OED talks about Teutonic adjectives originally ending in “liko,” which meant “appearance, form, body,” and the combining form then meant “having the appearance of.” So “ghostly” is “having the appearance of a ghost,” and “manly” is “having the form or aspect of a man.” And I disagree that they’re more inclined to be negative than positive adjectives. OED says, “In English of all periods it [-ly] has been a prolific formative; the adjs. formed with it are most frequently eulogistic, as in kingly, knightly, masterly, princely, queenly, scholarly, soldierly (cf. manly, womanly with mannish, womannish); among the examples with dyslogistic sense are beastly, beggarly, cowardly, dastardly, rascally, ruffianly, scoundrelly.”

  4. As for why there are no “heroly” people, this formation works best in the Germanic layer of the language. Hero is Greek through Latin, and the adjectival “heroic” comes almost directly from the Greek “hero-ikos.”

  5. Last week, my brother Marc gave me one that i can’t believe i’d omitted: Unsightly! i’m grateful that Marc and his wife Susan, two highly sightly people, paid me such a timely visit.

  6. H?llo just want?d to give you a b?ief heeads up and leet yyou know a f?w oof the pictures ?ren’t loading
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