Last month I wrote about adverbs, as a Word of the Week, and mentioned how we used to make up playful sentences ending with adverbs, such as “I haven’t read that long book by Victor Hugo,” said Les miserably. My brother asked me about it at Christmas, and the idea has played on my mind since then.
Reading (and re-reading) children’s books (the Narnia Chronicles, and my first experiences of Harry Potter), I am encountering a lot more adverbs than I’m used to. Agatha Christie, apparently, only ever used forms of “say” when reporting speech, and didn’t use adverbs. When reading her books you have to make up the tone of voice yourself. But JK Rowling and CS Lewis use other verbs of speech, and adverbs to tell you exactly how people are speaking – crisply, gravely, sharply. It catches me out all the time when reading aloud. I say the first part of some dialogue and find that I should have murmured, or wailed, or said it crisply, gravely or sharply. I keep forgetting to look far enough ahead.
After scribbling down these playful adverbs on various scraps of paper over the last month, I now present them alphabetically, at least one for every letter of the alphabet (apart from X, Y and Z).
“My former singing partner has eaten way too much,” said Paul Simon, artfully.
“I’m feeling generous, so let me give you one of these chocolate bars with coconut inside,” he said bounteously.
“Who has stolen my crucifix?” he asked, crossly.
“Salt and vinegar, or cheese and onion?” she asked, crisply.
“I prefer my chocolate to have at least 85% cocoa,” he said darkly.
“I know which of the Great Lakes is 4th largest by surface area,” he said eerily.
“I’m going to cram as many apples into this shopping basked as possible,” he said fruitfully.
“Play me a song, ‘Wishing Well’, or ‘My Brother Jake’, or something else by that 70s band that featured that brilliant guitarist Paul Kossoff,” she said freely.
“It was small, and then it got a bit bigger,” he said gruesomely.
“Now, we’re going to read some German Fairy Stories,” she said grimly.
“Of course I know the Punjabi word for elephant,” he said heartily. [It’s hathi, pronounced “haati”.]
“Nay,” he said, hoarsely.
“We’re going camping,” he said intently.
“If you want to know how I felt after my wife died, read ‘A Grief Observed’,” said CS Lewis, joylessly.
“Manchester United haven’t been the same since that Irish midfielder stopped playing for them,” said Roy, keenly.
“It’s going to be hard for me to do my shopping since I lost that bit of paper,” she said listlessly.
“I can’t quite complete this chain made out of small flowers – I just need one more,” he said lackadaisically.
“No, I haven’t read that big book by Victor Hugo, or seen the long-running stage musical based on it,” said Les miserably.
“All the other political parties will have to work together to get rid of every single Conservative MP,” he said notoriously.
“They know how to deal with thieves in Saudi Arabia,” she said, off-handedly.
“We searched for ages, and could only find amateur golfers, and then we finally tracked one down who gets paid for playing the game,” he said, profoundly.
“I don’t want minims or crotchets, I want eighth-notes,” he said quaveringly
“I love this Elizabethan neckwear,” she said roughly.
“And what would you like for dessert?” she asked, sweetly.
“Something with lemon on top, and a pastry base”, he replied, tartly.
“We will wear whatever the school says we should wear,” the children said, uniformly.
“I was heart-broken when Nancy Spungen died,” said Sid, viciously.
“I like to write about a different word every seven days”, he said weakly.
“Well, if you need to borrow some money, we can arrange a loan,” said the bank manager, with great interest.