I feel just fine

Due to NaBloPoMo, I'm finding my creative reserves being drained quite quickly. To that end I am just going to turn to my most fertile topic, grammar and usage, knowing full well that while you can sustain your interest over two posts on the matter, asking for a third (and, as the month progresses, quite possibly a fourth or seventeenth) is a lot. For this, I am mildly apologetic. Only mildly, though.

ANYWAY. My current pet peeve is when people use adverbs to describe how they feel, as in "I feel badly for Philippe," when Philippe has just lost his job or perhaps has acquired pneumonia. Or "I feel sickly" if you yourself have just acquired pneumonia. Or "are you feeling poorly?" when inquiring about the pneumonia status of a friend or coworker.

It is a pet peeve of mine because I value truth, and because when you say this, you are lying. Unless, of course, you have some sort of nerve degeneration or sociopathic emotional void, and it is on Philippe's behalf. But I would guess that, in fact, your ability to feel is just fine, darling, and you are not feeling badly at all. No sir. But, as it happens, the guilt or sympathy that Philippe's tragic state inspires in you might, you know, cause you to feel bad.

BUT WAIT, I hear certain people, like maybe Marcin (except not actually Marcin because he and I have already hashed this out over Google Chat, and he conceded my point by saying "your powers are strong today") revving up to say. Of course it is acceptable to say "I feel poorly," because don't we say - in an opposite, pneumonia-free scenario - "I feel well"?

Alas, no. "Well" is a clever little syllable, which can function as either an adverb or - dundundunnnn - an adjective! When you say "I don't feel well," you are indicating - adjectivally - that you are not experiencing wellness, or health. You don't feel badly, you feel bad. The opposite of an adjective (well) is an adjective (unwell, bad, sick).

Of course, if you have been badly burned in a fire and lost sensation, and are intending to adverbially refer to your unfortunately diminished ability to experience sensation, then by all means continue to tell us how you cried while at the petting zoo because you feel badly, and thus could not truly experience the sensational kickassery of a handful of wriggling fluffy duckling.


Drew said...

Dear Helen,

I have received my cookie. Thank you so much!


Marcin said...

Actually, "I feel sickly" and "I feel poorly" are standard English phrases. You have failed at knowing English. Try reading some 19th century novels.

Avitable said...

I feel Ashley.

helen said...

Marcin is right, "sickly" is, like "well," an adverb that also functions as an adjective.

I'm not 100% sold on "poorly." But I'll google it and see what the internet tells me, because the internet is never wrong.

helen said...

avitable: hee!

Jenny said...

Minnesotans confuse adverbs with adjectives more than any group of people I've ever come across. I annoy my husband a lot by yelling at the television regarding this =P.

I'm curious, though--how do you differentiate between something that is ungrammatical and something that breaks usage rules (I was going to say "poor usage," but that could be incorrect, too)?

Colleen said...

Two fonts walk into a bar. The bartender says, "We don't serve your type here." So they called the serif.