uses of "all"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Oct 19 13:44:44 UTC 2005

Barbara, your semantic analysis resembles and complements mine.  I believe that I use all these nuances in speech, including the "exasperative."

It may be impossible for any dictionary to notice such nice distinctions, especially diachronically.  But a reader's natural loss of sensitivity to such nuances is one of the factors that make older texts harder and harder to read as one goes back in time.


Barbara H Hudson <bhhudson at AUXMAIL.IUP.EDU> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Barbara H Hudson
Subject: uses of "all"

In my research on African American Female speech communities, I found
that "all" as an adverb of intensity was used by both Vernacular and
Standard speakers to mean "utterly, entirely, and completely"

Early examples of Vernacular speakers:

Your grandmother is all bowed down wid trouble right now.
(Brent 98)

While she sot dar all white and trimbly (Hopkins, "Hagar"

Later examples of Vernacular speakers:

Me, I done got all fat. (Jones, Eva's 84)

Suppose Shirley was all splayed out in front of you?
(Morrison, Sula 97)

Later examples of Standard speakers

She was walking around the house all bent over and
backward (Giovanni 264)

Don't go getting yourself all hung up on another one
(McMillan Disappering 61)

(Other examples from later works includeded: all nice and neat, all
screwed up, all clogged up, all creaky, all wrong, all well again, and
all shriveled up")

But I found that "all" was also used to emphasize feelings of
exasperation, indignation or scorn. All of these examples come from
later works:

Don't you see her bags all packed over there near you?
(Marshall, Praisesong 22)

The short stocky fellow with the hair to his navel is all
grinning. (Walker Everyday use 2369-23-70)

Real bangle bracelets, all on her arm (Bolton 90)

So one night be was by my place all drunk up and snoring
(Maylor, The Women 58)

The girls were all nicey-nicey to each other (Clair 78)

Barbara Hill Hudson

Barbara Hill Hudson
Professor Emerita
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
bhhudson at

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