Daily Archives: April 4, 2012


“I find that highly suspect,” Wally said to the lowly suspect, knitting his owly brow w, tugging on his tie y, and pulling close his woolly coat. “You are saying that there was no antonym?”

The suspect was not so manly as to display contumely, but his answer was not timely. Was he simply being cowardly? “Enough lollygagging!” Wally exclaimed. “We know that -ly means an adverb. You simply attach it and it goes. Strongly, weakly; majorly, minorly; brightly, darkly; heavily, lightly.”

“Don’t be silly,” said the suspect. “There is more than one -ly in the language.”

“There is only one!” shouted Wally.

“It’s not the only one,” riposted the suspect. “It is true that they come from the same source, which is also the origin of our word like. But like it or not, not all -ly words are adverbs, just as not all adverbs are -ly words.”

“You tricked them with semantics!” Wally said, jabbing his finger at the suspect.

“It was a bit lawyerly, I admit,” he replied. “But I spoke the truth: I told them that if I said the jewels were highly valuable, no one could say the opposite.”

“I’d say you sold them some mighty lowly valuables,” Wally said. “So you lose.”

“But lowly valuables are not the same as being lowly valuable. If you say something is highly poisonous, that makes sense. But if you say it’s lowly poisonous, it doesn’t.”

“You think highly of your reasoning,” Wally said, “but I think lowly of it.”

“I concede that there are adverbial forms of lowly,” the suspect said, “but they don’t have the same range of usage as highly. You see, highly can be used before an adjective to indicate great degree, like very or maximally. It can also, of course, be used to indicate high placement. But while lowly can be used to indicate low placement, it can’t be used before an adjective to indicate small degree.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” said Wally. “It’s highly irrational.”

“Human language is never truly a slave to lowly reason,” the suspect said. “Anyways, what I sold them was lovely.”

“More meretricious than meritorious,” Wally snorted.

“You simply don’t see the beauty in things. Take lowly. It has the echo of three v shapes without a single v in the word; it reaches high with two uprights like the Tower Bridge; it may seem to carry nothing, an empty o, but it can still double you; and it is introspective enough to end by asking ‘Why?’ And it sings a song with its parallel liquids, lowly lowly low…

“A goodly homage to a lowly word,” Wally allowed, “but you deceived them badly. Goods made cheaply became costly. You are dastardly.”

“It was not a princely sum; they got the early-bird price,” said the suspect. “Goods discounted daily. Anyways, words are free, but what is more valuable?”

“Silence is golden,” replied Wally, “and you will pay dearly for your words. I think you come out poorly on the balance sheet, and you will get what you richly deserve.”