That’s bad joke, not bad language, and herein lies a small lesson: Beware using nouns attributively. That’s when you use a noun as an adjective, such as in the title of this post. The reason to beware is because sometimes you can’t tell how that attributive noun is being used, as I point out in the first six words of this post.
(whew!) Finally, here’s the joke:
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Tl;dr version: Add -y or -ey. Some of these constructions are common: we have a mess, and things can get messy. You can make a joke out of this, too: What’s brown and sticky? —a stick! Some other suffixes can make an adjective out of a noun, such as -some. Trouble, troublesome. But adding that y is the most versatile, I think. It means “having the characteristics of.” You can use it on any noun. Hence the last word in today’s comic, Betty:
This is a good example of how to use an optional hyphen. You can put it in to make the meaning clear.
A quickie post today. I occasionally bemoan the use of introductory adverbs when you want adjectives. You know, using “hopefully” to start a sentence. So it’s nice when I find some writing that doesn’t make this common mistake. This one is from a Scientific American article about tigers (the bold is my emphasis):
Over the next six years radiotelemetry revealed the nuances of tiger behavior by enabling me to spend less time searching blindly for tigers and more time observing them. More important, this approach exposed where the cats wandered.
Yay! He didn’t write “More importantly.”
Don’t you, either!
PS—I ran into this very mistake today, in a piece of post-apocalyptic fiction:
Most importantly, they’d recovered a few dozen wheels. A wheel could be a gear, or part of a pulley, or a component in a steam engine.
Juno is also the first solar-powered spacecraft to explore the outer planets, which raises the question: why solar power?
A solecism that high school English teachers love to warn against is starting a sentence with “hopefully,” as in
Hopefully, we’ll all be in time for the meeting.
This is really just an instance of a fairly common problem, using an adverb when you need an adjective. You see it a lot in the news with “reportedly.” I googled that word recently and was chagrined to see how much it was misused. You can misuse many adverbs this way. Start some sentences with “understandably,” “supposedly,” “thankfully,” and “unexpectedly” for other examples.
Anyway, here’s someone who did it right! I put the correct usage in bold.
That possibility, one would hope, should weigh heavily upon the minds of the Supreme Court justices, who once praised those who “build and create by bringing to the tangible and palpable reality around us new works based on instinct, simple logic, ordinary inferences, extraordinary ideas, and sometimes even genius.”
Dignified sentences like this one are just as easy to read as ones that start with an understandably incorrect adverb.
Lots of articles start sentences with adverbs when they should have adjectives, and too many people put “as” after adverbs such as “equally.” Here was a chance to make both errors, but the writers got it right!
Equally important, we must ensure that the knowledge we currently possess is not lost, or our discoveries will be of no use to our children and grandchildren.
This is from a recent email from ancient-origins.net, a site with a combination of good and flaky books and articles about ancient history.
Not-made mistake one: Starting the sentence with “Importantly.” No! No! Don’t start sentences with an adverb when you’re modifying (introducing) the whole sentence. This guy did it right. It’s important that we do this, but not in an important manner.
Not-made mistake two: Saying “equally as.” The “as” isn’t necessary. Don’t use it!
Now, they did start this sentence with an adverb, but it modifies the adjective “important,” which you may do. Adverbs can modify adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs.