Adverbs aren’t my favorite part of speech. In fact, they are one reason I gave up on the Harry Potter books. If someone had vacuumed up the adverbs, I might have been able to get through the series.
I prefer colorful verbs to colorful adverbs, but I have a work-related need to brush up on my grammar. The trouble is, the more you look at adverbs, the weirder they get.
I’ve learned that most adverbs tell us where, when, why, how, and how much. Their main job is to modify verbs, the action words in a sentence. I took a field trip to the light rail construction site on Washington Avenue at the University of Minnesota — a place full of action — to look for adverbs.
(Adverbs are blinking red in the text below. It’s probably the first time in the history of the English language that adverbs have been made to blink. The flashy stuff is courtesy of computer whiz Robert Broneak. If I’ve missed any adverbs, I hope the grammarians out there will either set me straight or forgive me.)
I leaned my bike against the fence and started shooting a few photos.
It was immediately clear to me that most people don’t stop to watch the work. In fact, students often walk past with their eyes on their cell phones, not on the backhoes. One worker nudged another and mentioned my camera.
A guy who seemed like the foreman walked past me and asked, “Are you going to reveal all our secrets?”
“You got some?” I asked.
“Nah,” he said, laughing.
“What are you working on today?” I asked.
I thought he answered “duck bank.” With all this apparently random activity, why not build a bank for ducks? But that couldn’t be right. It had to be a duct bank, even though my brain wasn’t coming up with a reason why a duct, or a duck for that matter, would need a bank. I just nodded stupidly.
It was fairly quiet on this particular Saturday afternoon, so I returned on a weekday. By then, a bobcat was zipping back and forth from debris pile to dump truck.
A sign warned of heavy construction for the next two years. I rarely feel sorry for University of Minnesota students, but two years is a long time. I had spent an hour around this massive dirt pile, and I was already overwhelmed.
I liked this mechanical robot, which instantly reminded me of a horizontal, articulated R2D2.
Looking west toward the Mississippi River, I could see downtown Minneapolis — the light rail’s ultimate destination.
As I was leaving, the foreman, who was still working on that duct bank, asked me what I was doing. Fair question.
“I keep a website about southeast Minneapolis,” I said. “I write about whatever appeals to me.”
“So,” he said, “you’re livin’ the dream.”
Even I knew there were no adverbs in that sentence. Just a nice dose of humanity.