My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus is about an ongoing fascination of mine: company and product names that end in -ly. Over the last several years I’ve pinned 256 examples of such names on a Pinterest board, from Adaptly and Amazely to Yarrly and Zaarly. But I’m not content with pointing in alarm; I want to know how and why one little suffix has assumed so much power—and, not for nothing, how it came to be a marker both for adjectives (friendly, lonely, writerly) and for adverbs (frankly, strikingly, immediately).
No paywall this time! Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:
Some categories of words never, in normal English grammar, take the -ly suffix. Verbs are the most prominent example. But despite or perhaps in defiance of this proscription, many new businesses deliberately have chosen to create names by adding -ly to verbs: the roster includes Findly, Seekly, Sendly (not to be confused with Sently), Referly, Knowly, Embedly, Respondly, Optimizely, and Recurly. (Recurly has nothing to do with hair; it’s a service for recurring payments.) Sometimes it’s hard to know which part of speech is being -ly-ified: Founderly is a site for company founders, but you could just as easily read founder as the verb meaning “to sink” or “to fail.”
Even odder are the -ly names formed from neologisms (BucketListly, a way to keep track of your “bucket list”—things to do before you “kick the bucket,” i.e., die), portmanteaus (Volcally, from “volunteer locally”), and coined words with no evident meaning (Scubbly, an online marketplace; Rosingly, a daily-deal site; Vimbly, an activity finder). One such name was created—well, winkingly: Irregardless.ly is a crowdsourced style and usage guide whose name is a nod to a notorious “non-word”; the site’s founder, Charles Best—who also founded the philanthropic site Donors Choose—told me that when he couldn’t buy Irregardless.com “despite repeated attempts,” he chose the .ly extension, “consoling ourselves that we at least had an even funkier construction in ‘irregardlessly’.”
Read the rest of “Truly, Madly, Deeply … BucketListly?”
Want more? Read my blog posts about names that end in -ly.