uglily

Do you like this word? Do you like-like it?

As a word taster, of course, you can like some detail of it or fact about it without liking the whole thing. You might find the back half to be lovely, fluid, fragrant even – that nice flower lily – but the front half to be rather, um, ugsome. You might like the chic stripes of the middle but have distaste for the bumps and knots of the front and the funnel of the back. You might just dislike the quick repetition of the liquids with a bare minimum of vowel in between – you barely get your tongue unglued from the /gl/ when you have to touch it up again.

Or you might dislike the ly plus ly that come together to be the lily here. What’s with that? Isn’t one enough? Aren’t they the same thing?

They do, in fact, come from the same source: the old root that, as an independent word, became our word like. It was originally more commonly used to form adjectives, as we see in words such as friendly and homely; we also have words in which the root has retained its stress and form, as in warlike. Adverbs were more commonly formed with e in Old English: for instance, the adverb form of slow was slowe. But those endings tended to be dropped over time (adverb slowe became slow, for instance), and so the ly was increasingly added to adverbs (giving us the alternative, and now dominant, slowly). Now many people assume that ly is the necessary hallmark of adverbs, and sometimes adjectives ending in ly are reanalyzed as adverbs – for instance, walk leisurely, which still looks wrong to me because leisurely is installed in my brain as an adjective.

But sometimes those ly adjectives are well enough established as adjectives that they need to be converted to adverbs with the now-standard addition of ly. So whether you like-like it or not, it like-likes you. And ugly becomes a repellant flower, the uglily.

But the garden of language has room for many, many words – even many of what you might think of as the same type. If a flower garden can have hundreds of different lilies, ranging from the graceful, patrician, stately calla lily to the blousy, enormous, noisome, ghastly stinking corpse lily, you can have – like them or not – an assortment of lilys in the word garden, even if some are hard not to use uglily… imagine what kinds of flowers these all might be:

burlily
chillily
cleanlily
comelily
costlily
deadlily
earlily
friendlily
ghastlily
ghostlily
godlily
goodlily
holily
homelily
jollily
kindlily
livelily
lonelily
lordlily
lovelily
lowlily
manlily
melancholily
oilily
portlily
sicklily
sillily
sprightlily
statelily
timelily
uglily
unrulily
unseemlily
wilily
woolily
worldlily

Quite the masterly garden, isn’t it?

Thanks to Christina Vasilevski for suggesting uglily.

2 responses to “uglily

  1. Pingback: This Week’s Language Blog Roundup: Mars, Olympics, and more | Wordnik

  2. What a GOODLY bunch of words. I’m always LIKELY to read something on lilies, especially callas. Included something WRITERLY on my own blog last month.

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