Thursday, March 07, 2013

Literate Hillbillies (Not Named Faulkner)

I was walking down the street past two toothless hillbillies, and the one toothless hillbilly says to the other, "He can ill afford to do that."

It made me wonder if he was misusing the term "ill afford" to mean "not afford," or if he knew the difference and was using the term correctly. I, for one, am willing to assume the latter. I think the "not-verb" construction comes naturally in the early stages of learning English, and someone wouldn't even know the adverbial use of "ill" unless aware that it was distinct from the word "not."

So this was a highly-literate hillbilly I was passing, who was making an assumption of high literacy in his hillbilly conversational partner. And that made me happy. If hillbillies can learn the proper use of "ill afford," then regular folk can learn the proper use of an apostrophe.

No comments: