Read This Quickly

read-this-quicklyIn junior high school I had a wonderful English teacher who I remember for her out-of-the-box red hair and amazing blue eyes. I don’t believe colored contacts had been invented yet, so despite the hair, she gets a ten for those eyes.

There are actually many great things I remember about her, except her name, and one of those things is how and when to use –ly when writing and speaking. Mrs. What’s Her Name always used the example of “I feel badly,” and then she would pretend to touch stuff on her desk as if she’d been on a three-day drunk. It was hilarious, and it got the point across.

So, today’s The Weight of Words is devoted to Mrs. Boy I Wish I Could Remember Her Name and what a little –ly can do, or not do, for your writing.

Let’s start at that point when you’re wondering whether or not to add an –ly to your word by taking a moment to refresh on adjectives and adverbs. Adjectives describe nouns and pronouns. They may come before the word they describe: “That is an adorable kitten.” Adjectives may also follow the word they describe: “That kitten is adorable.” Adverbs modify adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs. If an adverb answers how and can have an –ly attached to it, place it there.

Examples:

She walks quickly.

We sang poorly.

He moves fast.

But wait, you say…there’s no –ly on fast in that last sentence. You are correct: Fast may be either an adjective or an adverb. In this example, fast answers how she thinks. Besides, there is no such word as fastly.

As for comparing, don’t drop the –ly, simply add more or less to your sentence.

Example:

Earl speaks more loudly than Joe.

Now for a tricky rule courtesy of our peculiar English grammar: if the verb is one of these four senses—taste, smell, look, feel—don’t ask how. Instead, ask if the sense verb is used actively. If so, attach the –ly. If the sense verb is not used actively, which is more common, don’t attach –ly.

Examples:

Perfume smells sweet. Does perfume actively smell with a nose? No, so no –ly.

The dog looked angry. Is the dog actively looking with its eyes? No, only its appearance is being described. So, no –ly.

She feels bad about the news. She is not feeling with fingers, so no –ly.

She feels badly since burning her fingers. She feels with her fingers here, so the adverb (–ly form) is used.

That last ridiculous sentence is in honor of Mrs. If Only I Could Remember Her Name.

Amphibious Fantasy

The rainforest is his favorite. A small slice of Heaven plunked down in the middle of his urban existence. The big cats are impressive, and everyone goes crazy over the elephants, but for Zach, the rainforest display at the zoo trumps them all.

He stands before the glass-fronted cage holding blue poison dart frogs. Three of them. Their shiny skin, unrealistic in royal blue, renders them plastic replicas of themselves. Until one moves. The frogs are active during the day unlike the lazy wolves that refused to cooperate. Zach really couldn’t blame them; he wouldn’t have left the safety of his cave to be gawked at by a bunch of fourth graders.

He understands the sleeping wolves. Even now he can feel his eyelids descending as he watches the frogs. Sounds of the rainforest are piped throughout the building: calling birds, buzzing insects, chattering monkeys, flowing water, growling leopards. It’s enough to make anyone want to take a nap. That’s exactly what Zach would do if he could pass through the glass and curl up in the window box display with his beloved frogs.

He has no fear of the poison on their skin. Somehow, he would become one of them. A superhero, of sorts, who uses the poison to get rid of the bad guys. The little frogs would help him like the bats do when Batman needs them. Besides, blue poison dart frogs bred in captivity aren’t poisonous like those living in the wild.

Zach continues to stare past his reflection in the glass. He chews the pull string on his hoodie, soaking it and gnarling the plastic end. Maybe he Blue Dart Frogscould be The Blue Dart. His outfit could be the same shade of blue as the frogs but without the speckles. And no capes. Capes are dumb. He would have a mask, though. A black one across his eyes. He imagines his face above a well-muscled, adult body wearing just such a getup.

A tap to his shoulder signals that it’s time to move on. He nods and smiles at his teacher, Ms. Schaeffer, allowing the whole class to drift past. Then he resumes staring at the frogs. Ms. Schaeffer doesn’t notice; she’s too busy flirting with the security guard trailing the class. And the tour guide, aware of her tenuous hold on the kids’ attention, doesn’t stop spewing rainforest facts or she’ll lose control. Zach already knows everything she’s telling them. He slips back to daydreaming.

A little blue dart frog poison on the breading of the corndogs Jaxson Michaels favors would put an end to the bullying. He’s pretty sure the whole school would be grateful when the sixth grader gasped and fell off his chair. He almost laughs at the image of Jaxson flailing on the floor. His grandma’s face surfaces before his eyes, scowling and shaking her head.

Zach’s breathing quickens. The thoughts of killing upset him. He scowls at his reflection then taps the glass to make the frogs move, a major taboo. No one witnesses his transgression, but he looks around all the same. The people milling about are parents with children. His class is nowhere in sight.

Like poisonous blue magnets, the frogs draw Zach’s attention once more. He considers sitting beneath the cage, leaning against the wall, to fall asleep to the rumble of thunder that has joined the other rainforest sounds. The clicking of heels speeding in his direction means Ms. Schaeffer has discovered his absence. Zach will tune her out when she scolds.

Blame it on the frogs, he thinks, but just don’t mess with The Blue Dart, lady.

~~~~~

Thank you to Michelle Smith of Just4FunPhotography for providing the beautiful picture of blue poison dart frogs.

%d bloggers like this: