Thusly is not a word?

Recently, one of my tutors pointed out my use of thusly in an essay. I used it thus: (except I would have added -ly there). Frankly, I was surprised to see it. Thusly was not a conscious choice during composition. Nevertheless, I mounted an ad hoc defense. The -ly does lead the listener nicely into the list which often follows, right? At the same time, as a proponent of the flat adverb mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I felt guilty about my neglect of thus. A quick google search provided more fodder for my usage conflict.

On the etymology of thusly is described thus: dating from the 19th century, seemingly coined by educated writers to make fun of uneducated persons trying to sound genteel. The OED lists thusly as colloquial, with its first recorded usage occurring in a December 1865 issue of Harper’s Magazine. The tone there clearly seems to be mocking. But the usage from 1893 already appears more neutral.

This post on thusly provides an interesting overview.

I’m not sure when or how I acquired thusly in my personal lexicon. For me, The Urban Dictionary‘s first lemma for thusly called to mind an image of my brother using thusly while performing a goofy demonstration – so maybe that’s an explanation. Meanwhile, you may have noticed my decision to use thus in this blog post. I’m still developing my personal usage guidelines regarding thusly. For the moment, I’ve decided to heed the advice of my tutor and the squiggly red line.

I look forward to having the project’s database available to consult many usage guides in one fell swoop. I’d also be very interested to hear readers’ opinions. Is thusly a superfluous synonym? Or does it have its own thing going? and if so, in which contexts?

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19 Responses to Thusly is not a word?

  1. Matthijs Smits says:

    In reading through some of my American usage dictionaries I came across the following entries for ‘thusly’.

    Wilson Follett’s Modern American Usage (1966, p. 308), has the following to say:

    “We add -ly for ridiculous or jocular effects to forms that are already adverbs: muchly, thusly. Consciously or not, -ly is sensed as eenfebling to prose; it contributes to the sinuosities of style, but enervates its muscle. […] With the rough justice of oversimplification it is often decreed that the fewer adverbs writing can get along with, the better it is.”

    Margaret Nicholson’s American English Usage (1952, p. 591) states:

    “thusly: (colloquial, facetious) is unnecessary & no longer (if it ever was) amusing.”

    Garner’s Modern American Usage (3rd ed. 2009, p. 814) says:

    ‘Thus’ itself being an adverb, it needs no ‘-ly’. Although the ‘NONWORD’ [see entry] thusly has appeared in otherwise respectable writing, it remains a serious lapse […].

    Personally, I once heard the famous bass guitarist T.M. Stevens use it in one of his instructional videos. He is quite the entertainer/eccentric, and when demonstrating one of his techniques he says: “I strike the string thusly”. I am not exactly sure what to make of his use of thusly, but I would agree that it is in some sense used jokingly. It’s interesting to see that the the use of “thusly” is referred to as jocular and facetious in Follett (1966) and Nicholson (1952), yet by the time Garner (2009) got to it, he deems it a ‘nonword’, and he does not cite its use as having comic effect.

    • These entries are fantastic, thanks! If you googled ‘thusly’ you may have also noticed this quote from Dr. Sheldon Cooper (who’s a character in the series ‘The Big Bang Theory’): “Under normal circumstances I’d say I told you so. But, as I have told so with such vehemence and frequency already the phrase has lost all meaning. Therefore, I will be replacing it with the phrase, I have informed you thusly.” The entry from Nicholson’s ‘American English Usage’ might be in need of an update! :)

    • bluesmamaoriginal says:

      Thusly in this context, means – “in this way, or in this fashion” i.e. :”I strike the string, like this” – “I strike the string, in this fashion” – “I strike the string, in this way” – “I strike the string, like so” – “I strike the string thusly”

  2. Robin Straaijer says:

    I must admit that thusly doesn’t sound quite right to my ears, but I’ve been trained in BrE and its use is apparently much more accepted in AmE. Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage says the following about it: “thusly is not now merely an ignorant of comic substitute for thus: it is a distinct adverb that is used in a distinct way in standard speech and writing”, specifying that “[t]husly appears to be appreciably more common than thus when the adverb follows the verb and precedes a colon”. They also reassure users of thusly by saying that “[k]nowledge of the subleties of its use may give you the courage to face down its critics”. (1989: 907)

    • Bjorn says:

      No, Americans hate “thusly” with a passion. We feel it’s only used by pompous asses.

      • Perry de Havilland says:

        I have only ever heard in used in the UK, and in the circles I move it, it is unremarkable and sounds just fine to me.

  3. A little late in coming to the party, but I had posted “thusly” in a blog of mine, and got rewarded with a red squiggly line ( Which lead me to search it, and I found your blog, and also Merriam-Webster’s definition and history (first know usage- 1865).

  4. Roddy says:

    Everytime I read or hear “thusly” I feel a little wince inside; it seems to me that the word “thus” is, while acceptable, half archaic in itself, and more often than not used in a pretentious way. It’s almost always easily interchangeable with any number of more modern or clear terms.

    So “thusly”, as an unnecessary way of modifying “thus” into an adverb (it can already be used as one) really jars with me; it always makes me suspicious that the writer, unless using it as parody, is trying to infer airs and graces in his or her prose.

    However, I’m writing purely from the point of British usage – the definitions referenced above suggest there may be a more established usage in American English.

  5. evilhippo says:

    I am a Brit and have used ‘thusly’ all my life, getting it from my grandparents, who likewise always used it. And I was never corrected on its usage during my long past school years either.

    • JAY says:

      Brits have no particular authority on this matter. “Thusly” is indeed a word; it signifies that the user is a fatuous nimrod.

      • evilhippo says:

        It is not a matter of ‘authority’ but rather demonstrating English usage in England. But thank you for implying I am a mighty hunter.

  6. Thusly: “thus far” (in time) – i.e.: “For those who have thusly come into my life…” Or “in this way” i.e. “He had a relative who passed away, and thusly acquired the land.” I have found this usage in so many 17th and 18th century literary works – also in more contemporary pieces by authors such as Somerset Maugham, D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. I have never seen it used as an “affection” of the un- or under-educated to try to appear more refined (i.e. social climber) – However, if social climbing by less than literary folk is the case in point; I’m sure one could use ANY word(s) in improper context and achieve the same result. ;) Please restore “thusly” to its proper linguistic place. It is a useful word, and eliminates the need for a whole clause.

  7. Janet Cline-Moody says:

    Like Roddy above, I also wince when hearing or reading “thusly.” I also wince when hearing or reading “from whence they came.”

  8. If the earliest OED example is from 1865, can bluesmamaoriginal please tell us which authors from the 17th century he is talking about? I think we need chapter and verse on this.

  9. Josh Manning says:

    It seems I am very late to this party. While I consider myself somewhat of a stickler for formalities in composition, I’m also a very big fan of the English language’s ability to change and develop with time. Even deliberate absurdities that become widely used shape its course, and are often legitimized with time and continued usage. One only needs look to former non-words like “bromance”, or for those less inclined to accept millennial expressions, “nerd”, which I find delightfully appropriate given the topic at hand.

    Although “thusly” is not expressly in the same position as the above, being a sort of “hat on a hat” adverb, it has a very, very long history of colloquial use, which bears significance. You can stand atop ivory towers all you like, but you’ll not stop the march of time.

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