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Awfully Isn’t Awful

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Awfully might seem like an awful choice for a positive adverb, as in awfully talented, but it makes sense given the history of awful. Once intended to mean “filled with awe,” it’s now a general intensifier. The process of semantic weakening has meant that awfully, along with terribly and horribly, has become synonymous with the word very. Actually, the word very went through a similar process. Very derives from Latin verus, “true,” and is cognate with verify. This is part of a complete episode.

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