Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Words I'm Looking Up (One in an occasional, cleverly named series on words I'm looking up)

Can you say "You did it good" to mean "You did it well"? Yup.

Webster's New World lists good as an adverb. A synonym for well.

American Heritage does too, but clearly labels it "informal."

Merriam-Webster allows it, too, but includes the note:

Adverbial good has been under attack from the schoolroom since the 19th century. Insistence on well rather than good has resulted in a split in connotation: well is standard, neutral, and colorless, while good is emotionally charged and emphatic. This makes good the adverb of choice in sports <“I'm seeing the ball real good” is what you hear — Roger Angell>. In such contexts as good cannot be adequately replaced by well. Adverbial good is primarily a spoken form; in writing it occurs in reported and fictional speech and in generally familiar or informal contexts..
I'm not sure I buy that business about a split connotation. But I like that they included a note of caution. Personally, I'll take this word of caution to heart. People tend to rough me up when I use adjective-sounding words as adverbs. But it's good to know I have a solid defense if I slip up.

Thanks to Dennis Shay over at for the suggestion!

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