"all" = very; quite

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Mon Oct 17 23:19:16 UTC 2005

So new that those exx. don't even sound like English to me.

But never mind that. Some syntactic subtlety, honored by the ear if not the intellect, still must be going undescribed, as a full-text search of Eighteenth Century Collections Online, involving (it says here) 150,000 books of the age, reveals not a solitary ex. of "look/ looks/ looked/ looking all worried."

The same goes for the test phrases "look [etc.] all happy," "...miserable," "...worn out," "...cheerful." and "...surprised."

Surely this isn't just the result of a search-engine problem ?  A search for "seemed all surprised" turned up one ex., but since it refers to an entire audience it is scarcely diagnostic:

1788 Jakob von Staehlin _Original Anecdotes of Peter the Great_  (London: J. Murray, J. Sewell, & W. Creech) 163 :  But the execution of the different pieces of music was so imperfect, so wretched, and there was so little harmony, that the guests...seemed all surprised, while the mistress of the house appeared not to perceive it.


"Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Arnold M. Zwicky"
Subject: Re: "all" = very; quite

On Oct 16, 2005, at 7:26 PM, Jon Lighter wrote:

> Maybe one could force-fit this adverbial "all" into OED def. 2, but
> I doubt it. It's absurdly common in speech, and has been for decades.
> 1993 http://groups.google.com/group/rec.music.folk/
> browse_frm/thread/edb973b564500555/ed7aeb5f7bef3ebf?
> lnk=st&q=YGBSM&rnum=675#ed7aeb5f7bef3ebf (Feb. 11) : Does anyone
> know where I can find a "Wild Weasel" patch that has the little
> weasel looking all worried and the inscription of "You Gotta Be
> Shitting Me" on it.

according to the local authorities, isa buchstaller and elizabeth
traugott (who gave a paper on this topic at the recent SHEL
conference), intensifier "all" with participles and AdjPs has been
around since OE. then with PPs (12th century) and NPs (17th
century). what *is* genuinely recent is intensifier "all" with
tensed verbs:
She all walks in.
Yeah I all screamed when we hit the skunk...


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