H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
really is an assurance of veracity. So, again, with late and lately. Thus, and American says I dont know, scarcely, not I dont know, scarce; he died lately, not he died late.92 But in nearly all such cases syntax is the preservative, not grammar. These adverbs seem to keep their tails largely because they are commonly put before and not after verbs, as in, for example, I hardly (or scarcely) know, and I really mean it. Many other adverbs that take that position habitually are saved as well, for example, generally, usually, surely, certainly. But when they follow verbs they often succumb, as in Ill do it sure and I seen him recent. And when they modify adjectives they sometimes succumb, too, as in it was sure hot. Practically all the adverbs made of adjectives in -y lose the terminal -ly and thus become identical with their adjectives. I have never heard mightily used; it is always mighty, as in he hit him mighty hard. So with filthy, dirty, nasty, lowly, naughty and their cognates. One hears he acted dirty, he spoke nasty, the child behaved naughty, and so on. Here even standard English has had to make concessions to euphony. Cleanlily is seldom used; cleanly nearly always takes its place. And the use of illy and thusly is confined to ignoramuses.
Vulgar American, like all the higher forms of American and all save the most precise form of written English, has abandoned the old inflections of here, there and where, to wit, hither and hence, thither and thence, whither and whence. These fossil remains of dead cases are fast disappearing from the language. In the case of hither (=to here) even the preposition has been abandoned. One says, not I came to here, but simply I came here. In the case of hence, however, from here is still used, and so with from there and from where. Finally, it goes without saying that the common American tendency to add -s to such adverbs as towards is carried to full length in the vulgar language. One constantly hears, not only somewheres and forwards, but even noways and anyways, where-bouts and herebouts. Here we have but one more example of the movement toward uniformity and simplicity. Anyways is obviously fully supported by sideways and always.
Note 92. I have, however, noted here late for here lately. But it is obviously derived from here of late. [back]