"all" = very; quite

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Tue Oct 18 00:15:33 UTC 2005

I quite like the 1483 quote from Caxton in the OED entry for "all":

   1483 CAXTON G. de la Tour Cvij, The lady wente oute of her wytte
   and was al demonyak.

On Mon, 17 Oct 2005 16:19:16 -0700, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

>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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