Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Aug 16 19:24:32 UTC 2009

At 10:26 AM -0700 8/16/09, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
>On Aug 14, 2009, at 7:26 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>>>>Daniel Hannan, a British Conservative member of the European
>>Parliament, joined the scare mongering campaign, appearing on a US
>>show to attack the British health system.
>>"The reality is it hasn't worked. It has made people _iller_; we
>>spend a
>>lot of money and we get very bad results," he said.
>comparative and superlative forms of "ill" 'sick, unhealthy' have some
>history.  Jespersen's Modern English Grammar volume 7 (around p. 362)
>has quotes; OED2 has a 1637 cite for "iller"; and DARE has examples in
>its entry for "ill".

Another factor may be that at least traditionally British English
speakers tend to avoid "sick" (which serves as a euphemism for
feelings of nausea) in favor of "ill", so that while the
corresponding American right-wing politician would have claimed that
the British system has made people _sicker_, for many BrEng speakers
that would be read as "more sick to the stomach", which is not the
(primary) intended sense here.  I wonder whether "iller" is more
likely in British English, ceteris paribus, given the (I assume)
greater frequency of the base form "ill" over there.


>these cites are all over the map stylistically,
>but some of them come from reasonably elevated sources.  the
>conclusion i draw is that these forms are acceptable but minority
>options.  no doubt some speakers don't like them and don't use them.
>(there are, after all, objections out there to, among other things,
>"realer", "solider", "stupidest", and even "cleverer".)
>to confound things a bit, there is now a rap/hip-hop sense of "ill",
>with frequently used comparative "iller" and superlative "illest".  a
>draft addition of June 2006 in the OED has two senses for this "ill"
>-- a negative sense 'aggressive, irrational, crazy; unpleasant,
>bad' (an offshoot of the standard senses) and (as so often happens
>with evaluative slang vocabulary) a reversed-polarity positive sense
>'excellent, attractive; fashionable'.  the Urban Dictionary is, of
>course, more excessive, listing as senses: cool, tight, sweet, dope,
>phat, amazing, awesome, the best (and, of course, "sick" in an
>approving sense).  so when Eminem raps "No One's Iller Than Me", he's
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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