Short shot #6: adverbial scary

Ann Burlingham wrote me a while back with a sighting of innovative scary different, roughly ‘scarily different, different in a scary way’. It’s from Business Week, in a quote:

Even stronger government intervention may be required, several economists said on Mar. 4. “I’ve gone through a number of cycles as an economist on Wall Street, but this one’s different,” says Brian Fabbri, chief economist for BNP Paribas. “This one’s scary different.” (link)

Googling on {“scary different”} pulls up a number of instances that are pretty clearly conveying ‘both scary and different’, but also some predicative examples like the one above, for instance:

It is amazing. It is fun. It is exciting. It is always different but never scary different. It’s enlighteningly different, fun different. (link)

Note the pairing with the adverb enlighteningly. And the adverbial use of fun, conveying ‘in a fun way’ (with the innovative use of fun as an adjective). Here’s another pairing with fun:

The sushi rolls are a little different from the usual California roll and spicy tuna roll – not scary different, but a fun kind of different. (link)

Adverbial scary can modify some other adjectives:

They’re scary huge, but oh so tasty. (link)

There are probably other adjectives, beyond scary and fun, that have been adverbialized (“adved”?).

7 Responses to “Short shot #6: adverbial scary

  1. Danny bloom Says:

    Scary different. Amazing how language evolves.

    Today on CNN here in Taiwan, the news crawl at the bottom of the screen, and I hate that, sometimes I even tape it over for weeks on end, but today it was untaped, the news crawl had a story about Bolt the Jamaican runner, and the headline for the story was “Lightening Bolt’.Can CNN get away with that, global TV with spelling errors, glaring spelling errors like that? Doesn’t CNN have a copyeditor to check the news crawls? It’s embarrassing….

  2. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To Danny Bloom: from Brians’s Common Errors:

    Those bright flashes in the storm clouds indeed used to be referred to as “lightening,” later as “light’ning,” but now they are simply “lightning.”

    “Lightening” has a quite different meaning in modern English: making lighter, as in lightening your load or lightening the color of your hair.

  3. Jonathan Lundell Says:

    I think of “scary smart” (q.g.) as the prototypical adverbing of “scary”. Much predated by the more or less parallel “awful smart”, of course.

  4. m Says:

    Does ‘precious little’ qualify?

  5. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To Jon Lundell: nice catch with intensifier awful — according to the OED and MWDEU, first used as a mere intensifier with nouns, then later (from 1818 on), in alternation with older awfully, as an intensifier with adjectives and adverbs. (Intensifier awfully and awful have both come in for criticism from usage commentators.)

    The history of adverbial scary and awful (and any others that are out there) is hard to work out: they could be short variants of -ly adverbs — there’s plenty of such variation around — or they could be simple extensions of the adjectives to adverbial use (which could be viewed as zero conversions of adjectives).

  6. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To Mae Sander: the June 2009 draft revision of the OED has precious as an intensifier with nouns, conveying ‘complete, utter, out-and-out’, from c1475; and as an intensifier with adjectives and adverbs, conveying ‘extremely, very’ (especially in precious few and precious little), from 1775. But there’s also a preciously ‘very greatly; exceedingly, extremely’ (marked as colloquial), attested from 1607. Two 20th-century cites: “preciously near to being involved” (1922), “came preciously close to sucess” (1984).

  7. Ben Zimmer Says:

    I mentally categorize adverbial scary with adverbial crazy — OED’s got it back to the late 19th c., with adverbial mad going back further still.

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