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A site for exploration and discussion about verse, poetics, the aesthetic, and creative writing in general.

Because there is a profound difference between writing something to be read and writing something worth reading; and in that difference might beauty be found.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Miller Lite

the question of -ly


A simple little note here on something that has been catching my ear on television. Currently, Miller Lite has in their ad campaigns gone back to pointing to the spelling of "lite" and how they began that habit. The catch phrase you hear on their commercials with this is

Spelled different because it is brewed different.

Which, obviously is grammatically incorrect. Those are adverbs, so the words should be differently.

Now, it does not surprise me that there would be language errors in an ad campaign: advertising, particularly what I hear on television and radio, seems to be permitting a greater and greater degree of sloppiness in their work. I frequently hear conjunctions and adverbs misused; it is not infrequent that I hear nouns or verbs used to the wrong definition or out and out clumsy sentence constructions; and occasionally I even here gross errors in fact. For example, I recently heard a local radio ad that used Little Red Riding Hood as an example of being choosy – the correct reference being of course Goldilocks. The ad didn't stay on the air very long, but there still waves the question of how did it get on the air in the first place.

But back to Miller Lite. Language changes over time. Everyone knows that. One of the changes that is happening in English today is that the -ly that marks adverbs is being dropped more and more. I have heard it said that the -ly is "disappearing from the language." From my listening, though, it does not seem that it is disappearing but that it is become permissibly optional. (Far, far more in speech than in writing.) If you drop the body of people who are mis-speaking because of dialect, lack of education, or lack of attention, it has seemed to me, from my listening, that people (and this includes myself) will sometimes use the -ly and sometimes not, and often for a purpose related to the utterance. For example, there is a sort of punch that you can create to a statement by using the adjective form instead of the adverb form, especially when the adjective form is one syllable. (You hear this used often in colloquial or slang constructions.) I also believe that people with a more developed poetic or musical ear will sometimes drop the -ly for the sake of rhythm.