awful和awfully的用法 - 给力英语


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The word awful should however be used with cau­tion, and a due sense of its importance; I have heard even well-bred ladies now and then attribute that term too lightly in their common conversation, con­necting it with substances beneath its dignity —Hes­ter Lynch Piozzi, British Synonymy, 1794

Mrs. Piozzi appears to have been the first person to remark in print on the weakened sense of awful that was developing in spoken English toward the end of the 18th century. She did not give us any examples of the use, and it is more than a decade before written examples are found. This may be one of the earlier ones; it sounds like the weakened sense, but the context is a bit short to be certain:

This is an awful thing to say to oil painters —Wil­liam Blake, A Descriptive Catalogue of Pictures 1809

These next two are more certain:

It is an awful while since you have heard from me —John Keats, letter, 27 Apr. 1818 <OED Sup­plement)

... there was an awful crowd —Sir Walter Scott, let­ter, 20 Feb. 1827 (in George Loane, A Thousand and One Notes on A New English Dictionary, 1920)

The OED shows Charles Lamb before 1834 as its earli­est example. The sense became well established during the 19th century:

... the awful chandeliers and dreary blank mirrors —W. M. Thackeray, Vanity Fair, 1848

What an awful blunder that Preston Brooks business was! —Jefferson Davis, quoted by Mary Chesnut, diary, 27 June 1861

It is awful to be in the hands of the wholesale profes­sional dealers in misfortune —Oliver Wendell Holmes d. 1894, The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, 1857

Although Joseph Hervey Hull's English Grammar of 1829 put "the weather is awful" in a list of "incorrect phrases," there seem not to have been a great many decriers of the use before the 20th century. Richard Grant White 1870 objected to the use of awfully as an intensive, calling it a Briticism, and Bardeen 1883 men­tioned two other 19th-century commentators as critics. But in the first quarter of the 20th century or so the use was roundly thumped by numerous commentators, including Vizetelly 1906, Utter 1916, MacCracken & Sandison 1917, Whipple 1924, Lincoln Library 1924, and Lurie 1927, among others. "Awful does not mean ugly or disagreeable," wrote Letter, belatedly objecting to a sense that had been in use for more than a century. It has continued to flourish in the 20th century, in two distinct senses, "extremely disagreeable or objection­able" and "exceedingly great":

... what an awful lot shoe-laces can tell you —Logan Pearsall Smith, All Trivia, 1934

He had rented a pretty awful house —Edmund Wil­son, Memoirs of Hecate County, 1946

On this last we all had an awful time with Hull —Sir Winston Churchill, Closing the Ring, 1951

I do an awful lot of talking and singing —Cornelia Otis Skinner, quoted in Los Angeles Examiner, 20 Apr. 1952

The weather has been awful —Janet Banner, New Yorker, 27 June 1953

Much of it is about what you might expect, pretty awful —W. G. Constable, quoted in Lucien Price, Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead, 1954

... but when it gets off its toes and settles down to trying to unsnarl its plot, it is pretty awful —John McCarten, New Yorker, 7 Jan. 1956

The color was awful, like in bad MGM musicals — Pauline Kael, Harper's, February 1969

... his bronchial troubles are extravagantly awful — V. S. Pritchett, N.Y. Times Book Rev., 10 June 1979

discreet, discrete This is awful —Einstein 1985

Vulgar and awful, but useful —James MacGregor Burns, in Harper 1985

After all, an awful lot of people learn American English —Janet Whitcut, in Greenbaum 1985

Awful is also used as an intensive adverb, like awfully, but in our evidence is not as common in writing as awfully is:

It's a sad state of affairs and awful tough on art —H. L. Mencken, Prejudices: Second Series, 1920

... and an awful little is too much —Joseph Wood Krutch, Saturday Rev., 24 July 1954

While the weakened senses were developing, the origi­nal senses continued in use:

She had not been used to feel alarm from wind, but now every blast seemed fraught with awful intelli­gence —Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, 1818

... the awful striking of the church clock so terrified Young Jerry, that he made off—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859

... had applied to the War Department for an exten­sion of ten days, and was awaiting an answer from that awful headquarters —John William DeForest, Miss Ravenel's Conversion from Secession to Loy­alty, 1867

... I am in fear—in awful fear—and there is no escape for me —Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897

The awful arithmetic of the atomic bomb —Dwight D. Eisenhower, address to U.N., 8 Dec. 1953

... in the half-light it had an awful majesty, so vast, so high, and so silent —Edward Weeks, Atlantic, July 1956

... something unknown and awful was going to hap­pen —James T. Farrell, What Time Collects, 1964

It was an awful war, one of the worst —William Sty-ron, This Quiet Dust and Other Writings, 1982

A few commentators feel that awful can no longer be used in its original senses, but it obviously can when the context is clear. An ambiguous context will, of course, leave the reader uncertain. Ambiguity can even be cre­ated as between the two weakened senses:

General Hood is an awful flatterer; I mean an awk­ward flatterer —Mary Chesnut, diary, 1 Jan. 1864

The intensive adverb awfully was attacked as a Briti­cism by Richard Grant White in 1870. The Oxford American Dictionary as recently as 1980 continues the depreciation of the intensive with the remarkable claim that "careful writers" avoid it. Perhaps so, but good writers have certainly not avoided it since it became established in the mid-19th century. Some of our exam-

ples are from fiction and drama, but others are from ordinary discursive prose:

"... Would you think it awfully rude of me if I asked you to go away?" —Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

... and they like it awfully —Rudyard Kipling, The Day's Work, 1898

... the awfully rich young American —Henry James, The Wings of the Dove, 1902

... who seemed so awfully afraid of anything that wasn't usual —John Galsworthy, The Dark Flower, 1913

I used to learn quotations; they are awfully genteel —Lord Dunsany, The Glittering Gate, 1909 in Five Plays, 1914

... one of those awfully nice, well-brought-up, uned­ucated young creatures —Aldous Huxley, Those Barren Leaves, 1925

... staring at them with those awfully brilliant eyes of his—Dorothy Canfield, The Brimming Cup, 1921

It's most awfully nice of you to think of it —Willa Cather, The Professor's House, 1925

... was something more than an awfully nice girl — The Autobiography of William Allen White, 1946

"I'm awfully sorry," I said —W. Somerset Maugham, "The Alien Corn," 1931

... suddenly all the frocks in size fourteen seem awfully girlish —Phyllis McGinley, Saturday Rev., 21 Feb. 1953

... a masterpiece of its kind, and if the kind is not awfully profound ... —Times Literary Supp., 30 June 1966

... seemed awfully cold and self-possessed —Edith Oliver, New Yorker, 22 Oct. 1966

That word "I" makes you seem awfully responsible, doesn't it?—Bailey 1984

Awfully has other uses than just that of intensifier; however, these are not so frequently met:

I should have been asleep instantly, but he of the red nightcap now commenced snoring awfully —George Borrow, The Bible in Spain, 1843

There is no time at which what the Italians call la figlia della Morte lays her cold hand upon a man more awfully than during the first half hour that he is alone with a woman whom he has married but never genuinely loved —Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh, 1903

They sat, awfully gazing into the distance —Ford Madox Ford, It Was the Nightingale, 1933

... paused, to direct his eyeglass awfully upon a small boy sitting just beneath the lectern —Dorothy L. Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon, 1937

According to Mary Hiatt, in The Way Women Write (1977), there is a notion abroad that awfully is a typi­cally feminine intensifier. As the preceding examples show, it is not particularly marked for sex.

The history of awful and awfully is not unique; dreadful, dreadfully, frightful, frightfully, horrid, horridly, ter­rible, and terribly, for instance, had all undergone simi­lar weakening to become used in intensive function earlier than awful and awfully. The process seems to be a normal one in English. Some writers have turned to awesome to avoid having their awfuls misunderstood, but even awesome now seems to be undergoing a simi­lar change. A few other writers—mostly British—are trying to revive the old spelling aweful for the earlier senses:

... the aweful art of biography —Jill Tweedie, The Guardian, 8 Nov. 1973

... a grotesque figure with a huge and aweful wooden mask —Richard Southern, The Seven Ages of the Theatre, 1964

... striking originality and awe-ful grandeur — Times Literary Supp., 12 Feb. 1970(资料出处:韦伯斯特英语用法词典)

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