You done good

On one listserv polemics broke out several times over the adverbial use of “good”. One time the phrase that elicited outrage was, “How are you?” “Good”. “How’s it going?”, “How’re ya doin’?”, etc. all required the response “well” according to a large number of teachers.
Of course, I jumped in by going to the dictionary and finding “good” listed in an adverbial usage, which simply confirmed in the mind of the grammar mavens the reality of a liberal conspiracy to undermine authority in general and God in particular. After all, didn’t languag liberals put “ain’t” in Webster’s Third International in 1963? I was working in a bookstore at the time, a John Birch Society bookstore, no less, and recall with relish the howls of outrage from our conservative customers (yes, there were liberals and Democrats in Goldwater’s Arizona).
As I study the grammars of languages related to English, I note a similar slide into Socialistic Communism in grammar usage. In Dutch, “… goed can mean either good or well.” “Goed gedaan” means “well done”. p 150 Teach Yourself Dutch Grammar.
Dutch is the language closest to English unless you count Frisian, spoken in the Netherlands but considered a separate language by most authorities. I meant to check out a Frisian grammar at the library and will do so this week and check it out….. both the book and the usage.
In Norwegian, which influenced English greatly through the Viking invasions of the 9th century, the situation is much the same as in colloquial English. “There is very little difference in form between adjectives and adverbs” p. 175 in Learn Norwegian by Sverre Klouman. “du snakker godt” = you speak well.
The complexities of dialect are illustrated best in Norwegian. I’ve been reading a book titled The New Norse Language Movement by Lars Vikoer (the o with a line through it). English is ruthless, at least in the U.S., in that it admits of no dialect forms, supposedly. The grammar mavens are so ignorant that they don’t realize when they are using dialect forms but they do savage anyone they suspect of straying outside the range of their authority. But by this ruthlessness, we retain at least the illusion of homogeneity.
The Norwegians, OTOH, are beset by what appears to be linguistic mayhem. The people who seem to be a kind of amalgam of farmers, freeholders, yeomen, rural hicks and yokels have demanded that their language be made official. No one has been able to pull together totally all these variants the way Modern Greek smoothed out the various Greek dialects into modern demotika.
At the same time, the big city sophisticates had taken to speaking Danish since Norwegian was ostensibly part of Denmark. They did speak Danish, pretty much, but with a strong Norwegian take on how it was pronounced. In effect, Dano-Norwegian was a language unlike the Norwegian spoken in the rural areas and major urban centers of the west but it wasn’t Danish either.
Since so many people spoke this Dano-Norwegian, they couldn’t manage to switch over entirely to a “pure” Norwegian, that is, a Norwegian uninfluenced by Danish. It was kind of like Americans realizing that double negatives are a natural part of English but being unable to switch over comfortably to saying, “I didn’t see none.” Those who naturally spoke that way would speak that way, but those who had been taught to avoid double negatives and had done so, growing up speaking without them, would have a tough time consciously using double negatives. At least that’s the way I understand the situation there.
All this is complicated by the fact that Swedish, Norwegian and Danish are all mutually intelligible once the “accent”, i.e. the local pronunciation, is got used to [convoluted construction, that]. Having studied Norwegian this summer, I do find texts in Swedish and Danish not incomprehensible. Nationalism plays a big part in all this, of course, and the local dialects of Norwegian are no less “nationalistic” in their demand to be heard. My reading, probably out-of-date, says that about 20% of Norwegian schools teach in New Norsk and the rest in Bokmal, the Norwegian spoken in Oslo with huge concessions to Danish. More and more, New Norsk or rural dialect forms are being accepted into the language of the sophisticated folk of the capital.
Something like this can occur because Norway is settled the way it is, a huge population in one city and its surroundings, and few people scattered over a huge area of the hinterlands. It’s complicated by the fact that there are some pretty big urban centers  that use these dialects and they are not of a mind to use the Dano-Norwegian form.
Back to good/well, it fascinates me how so many of the features we attribute to “bad grammar” are actually forms found in varieties of Engish in England and in other Germanic languages, both continental and insular (Icelandic and Faroese). One thing I learned is that the term Norse and Norwegian were invented by Norwegian nationalists in an attempt to appropriate the noble sagas of the Vikings for themselves when these are properly the patrimony of the Icelanders, not the Norwegians.
I have an old grammar of Norwegian dating from the early 20th century which titles itself Norse and explains that that term is preferred. Obviously, the author’s views did not win out.


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