the grisly

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Fri Sep 14 12:47:05 UTC 2012

On Sep 14, 2012, at 12:03 AM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
> Heard in one of the Inspector Lewis episodes: "Let's go down to the pub.
> I'll give you the grisly." The context makes it perfectly obvious that
> the implication is "grisly details"--or, in other words, the "run-down".
> I suppose, it could just be truncation, but I smell a nouning, of sorts.

well, nouning in either case -- either directly, or by truncation.  in some cases, they're hard to tell apart.

these things are complicated.  adjectives that were originally nouned by truncation can lose their sense of being truncations; people eventually see them as just nouns homophonous with adjectives and not as shortenings of any sort.

> BTW the OED entry on "grisly" leaves a lot to be desired--it's outdated
> and inaccurate.

and it says so; the entry has a note that it is not yet fully updated and was first published in 1900.

> Collocations "grisly murder(s)" and "grisly details"
> that are quite common today (300K and 111K raw, respectively) don't even
> appear anywhere on the page.

most of the cites are quite old and can't be taken as illustrative of current usage.  some other common collocations now: "a grisly end", "a grisly fate", "a grisly death", "a grisly story".

and, yes, searching for noun uses of "grisly" is hard, in part because "grisly" is a very common misspelling of "grizzly" 'grizzly bear'.


The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list