An English tutoring column by Ralph Schatzki who would like you to join him
in the task of saving the language, step-by-step, word-by-word, one person at a time.
Mr Lee, an extra passenger who would suddenly appear during family conversations. Find out
his role as someone who helps save English one word at a time!
Mr.Lee -A Visitor who Often Dropped by
When I was a child, my family would go on summer trips. My parents, my two brothers and I
would cram ourselves into our car, each day traveling seemingly interminable hours down the
freeway. This was long before the advent of MP3 players and Gameboys, and we had to resort
to many (non-electronic) devices to keep ourselves entertained.
What this meant, of course, is that we talked a lot. Nowadays, kids are afforded many diversions
to pass the time on road trips: there are not only the aforementioned devices, but also DVD players,
handheld games, cell phones...The list is long. The bottom line, though, is that children don't talk
to their parents as much as they used to.
In a way, this is unfortunate, for on our family's road trips we often had an extra passenger who
would suddenly appear during family conversations. His name was Mr. Lee.
Our car was crowded, hot and smelly. My parents had the front seat to themselves, of course,
while the three boys were stuck in the back, but Mr. Lee would always insert himself somewhere
amongst the boys. We almost always resented his intrusions, but we eventually learned to keep
him out of the car for good.
Here's how he would show up:
One of us in the back seat would be talking and say something like, "I did that bad," and my father
would immediately interject "ly."
Eventually, the three of us learned to moan just as quickly as my father had brought Mr. lee into the
car and into the back seat with us, and eventually we said, "I did that badly."
Mr. Lee, that adverbial stickler, had made his mark on us, and- like Nanny McPhee, moved on since we
no longer needed him.
Unfortunately, he did not always go where he was needed. One still hears adjectives used as adverbs-
"Do it careful, now," or "He ran real quick." (A double whammy, there!)
If the word one is using answers the question "how," please use an adverb. Usually, but definitely not always,
this means putting an -ly ending on the end of an adjective: "happy" becomes "happily," or "smooth" becomes "smoothly."
There are two truly egregious instances of this mistake. The first is the word "really." This is a word that questions
or affirms something (almost synonymous with the word "very"), such as in the following: "The restaurant was good."
"Really? How good was it?" "It was really good." Please, don't say "real good." "Real" means "genuine," or "authentic."
The other serious instance of abuse is one which Mr. Lee never addresses. This is the word "well." Please use this word
as an adverb, and "good" as an adjective. The sentence "He did good" makes the listener think, "Yes, but you didn't."
HOW did he do? He did well.
A proofreader, editor, author, math teacher and tutor, professional opera singer, ex-lawyer (by his own choice), sports fan, husband and
father. He has lived on both American coasts, as well as in the southwest and midwest, and overseas in Thailand for more than thirteen
years. He loves to read, write and perform, to watch sports, and to spend time with his family.
If you are pleased with this column,
please treat us to a cup of Joe!