Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jul 26 02:42:56 UTC 2001

At 6:23 PM -0400 7/25/01, Dennis R. Preston wrote:
>>I am amazed by the 56 litcrit quote, which confirms my suspicion
>>that it was not just youth culture or slang and around for quote a
>>bit (but beneath the level of my radar - better start readin' MLN
>>more often).

But I think the OED is right in distinguishing the (non-slang)
"largely, in the main" or as I'd put it "for the most part" sense
(1c), which the Milton quote exemplifies, and the (slang) intensifier
sense (1b) that can be paraphrased by "very".  I don't see the MLN
quote as involving the novel slang/colloquial sense ("majorly
serious", "majorly depressed") that I was conscious of as "funny"
when I first heard it in, I assume, the 1980's.  If this is right,
the "it" in dInIs's sentence doesn't pick out a single referent and
he can go back to ignoring MLN with a clear conscience.


>>  > What's the history of "majorly"? I've seen (and never heard) it only
>>>  very recently (and, perhaps mistakenly, associate it with what I
>>>  might call (noncondescendingly, I hope) "youth culture." I'm sure
>>>  some of word-watchers can let us in on the history of this (which may
>>>  be ancient for all I know; my life has been pretty sheltered).
>>Here's the OED entry. HDAS has a somewhat different take, and considers
>>more of these to be slang, but the idea is there.
>>   1. a. Greatly, extremely.
>>   1955 Jrnl. Politics 17 II. 274 The absolutism of decalogues and of
>>two-foot no effective guide for any majorly changing
>>society. 1992 Tucson Weekly 15 Jan. 38/3 Don't worry about all the
>>homework you're going to get for staying home or your barfing will
>>increase majorly. 1997 Guardian 19 July 5 Doug Doretti, president of
>>the company, said last night:
>>     b. colloq. (orig. U.S.). As an intensifier, modifying an
>>adjective: really, very.
>>   1983 Washington Post (Nexis) 27 June, I never feel like crying. It's
>>never anything majorly serious. 1988 J. MCINERNEY Story of my Life
>>ix. 147 I'm like majorly depressed. 1989 M. DORRIS Broken Cord xi. 189
>>There's nothing majorly wrong. 1995 Gazette (Montreal) 22 Jan. F6 It
>>was a real bachelor pad, majorly slimy.
>>     2. Largely, in the main.
>>   1956 Mod. Lang. Notes 71 7 532 Mr. Watkins is quite aware that
>>Milton had other sides to his nature and to his thought, but he likes
>>to think that he was majorly a poet and, consequently, should be
>>judged on his poetry. 1971 N.Y. Law Jrnl. 23 Nov. 4/4 The conclusions
>>of the writers, however, are majorly unsupportable, illogical,
>>unknowledgeable and inconsistent. 1992 Elle Jan. 84/3 The chronic and
>>worsening wrist pain..has been majorly lessened.
>Dennis R. Preston
>Department of Linguistics and Languages
>Michigan State University
>East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
>preston at
>Office: (517)353-0740
>Fax: (517)432-2736

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