Adverb Rebellion

This passage from a fellow blogger (cap doff to) caught my eye:

Reality? Well it starts to mock back at your face, you get surrounded by the clouds of regret, cry on the ashes of your pretentious bliss and feel agitated on being abandoned by the people you highly think of.

(Shubhi Rawat, “The City Dwellers,” Perception, shubhangirawat.wordpress.com, May 2, 2021)

The passage dances with an out-of-kilter vivacity that mocks back at my face. I like it, and it made me rise from the ashes of my pretentious bliss to ponder adverbs.

What’s exotic about “highly think of” versus “think highly of”? No obvious rule leaps to mind.

Most adverbs are flexible as to where they may occur in the sentence: “I think deeply about the problem”; “I think about the problem deeply”; etc.

What’s in play, as I see it, is that in the formula “think highly of” the adverb is a cloaked adjective. It confers the attribute of being estimable on the object of the preposition rather than commenting on the nature of the thinking. It says, sneakily, “In my thoughts I attribute to the following entity an elevated status.” That message is puckishly flustered in “highly think of.”

Where they’re actually being themselves, adverbs almost always weaken an argument. They’re the Angostura Bitters ™ of style; use them by the drop, if at all.

Quedo de Vds. S.S.S.Q.E.S.M.

~ “Write beautifully what people don’t want to hear.” (Frederick Seidel)

(c) 2021 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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