Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth

Article excerpt

In My Fair Lady, which came out as a film in 1964, 50 years after Shaw's Pygmalion, they decided to update Eliza's exclamation of 'Walk! Not bloody likely. I am going in a taxi', which, on the first night in 1914, had 'brought the house down' on the lips of Mrs Patrick Campbell, according to the Daily Telegraph review. So at Ascot, Eliza in the film shouts at her favoured horse: 'Move yer bloomin' arse.'

In the Pygmalion version, half the joke is saying bloody in a duchess's accent, but Audrey Hepburn's Eliza falls out of her trained accent in excitement and shouts in Cockney. It seems odd that bloody was then brought down a notch to bloomin', but perhaps American audiences were less familiar with bloody as an ordinary intensifier in speech.

I was only thinking about this because I'd found myself a little annoyed recently by hearing people using likely as an adverb, as a synonym for probably. Thus drivers staying at home during half term 'will likely free up the roads for other commuters', the Sun reported. My annoyance, I discover, was misplaced, since likely has been used in this sense for centuries,

Still, just as not all adverbs end in ly, so not all words ending in ly are adverbs. …

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