Well ADJECTIVE

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Today's installment of John Allison's web-comic short story "Murder She Writes" features the youthful amateur detective Charlotte Grote ("Lottie") using well as an intensifier of the adjective brutal.

This is a traditional usage — the OED's sense 16.a. for well, "With adjectives. Formerly in common use, the sense varying from 'fully, completely' to 'fairly, considerably, rather'", has citations going back to the 9th century:

c888 Ælfred tr. Boethius De Consol. Philos. xxv,   Seo leo, þeah hio wel tam se,‥heo forgit sona hire niwan taman.
c900 tr. Bede Eccl. Hist. iv. ii. 258   Wæron her stronge cyningas and wel cristene.

But now well ADJ is rare except in the cases listed in sense 16.b. "In modern use esp. in well able, well aware, well worth, well worthy", a list that obviously doesn't include "well brutal". (Well is freely used as a modifier on past participles, as in "a well-cooked egg", but that's another matter.)

Searching Google Books for recent uses turns up other example of well as a general intensifier of adjectives, but all (as far as I can tell) in non-standard British varieties:

"The lyrics are just disgusting. It is well brutal and extremely sick, which is what we set out to do. We set out to do the sickest thing possible, and in my opinion we achieved it." [Offie, vocals/rhythm guitar in the "Welsh death metal band" Desecration, quoted in Joel McIver, Extreme Metal II, 2010.]

A well rough doxy, with streaks of red smeared across her cheeks and eyes, pulls at Lilo's shoulder. [Emily Diamand, Raiders' Ransom, 2011.

Charlotte is from West Yorkshire — I don't know how widespread this use of well is in English dialects, or when and why it dropped out of the standard language. I don't think that I've ever seen or heard it in the U.S.



84 Comments

  1. Paul said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 11:35 am

    It's very familiar to me (Irish, also lived in Britain), though I had assumed it was recent slang.

  2. Oskar said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 11:41 am

    With the exception of well rid (which I'd add to your short list of idiomatic well X usages), I can't say that I've heard it either, but it's a lovely construction. I think I'm going to start using it myself.

  3. Joe Rembetikoff said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 11:46 am

    In case anyone's wondering about doxy "Originally the term in Vagabonds' Cant for the unmarried mistress of a beggar or rogue: a beggar's trull or wench: hence, slang, a mistress, paramour, prostitute; dial., a wench, sweetheart."-OED

  4. John said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 11:47 am

    Very common in UK English, particularly among younger (London area?) speakers – "that's well good", "he/she is well fit" etc. Just spotted an example here (under 'fit'), but have heard it a lot.

    http://www.londonslang.com/db/f/

  5. Rich Cheng said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 11:51 am

    My ear is telling me I hear well used like this fairly commonly in informal speech, here in the UK.

  6. KeithB said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 11:58 am

    I keep hearing it as "well, brutal" where well is more of an intensifying placeholder, to coin a phrase. As in "the dinner was, well, awful."

  7. Ben Zimmer said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 11:59 am

    I recall Ali G frequently using well fit to describe attractive women.

  8. garicgymro said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

    This is very common colloquially throughout England, and I'd say it's perceived as a feature of young people's speech. My wife is from Northumbria, and her younger brother uses it all the time. Years ago, a dog on the soap opera Eastenders (set in London) was called Wellard, because his owner thought he was well hard. It's familiar in both Scotland and Wales, but (in spite of being Welsh and having lived in Scotland) I have a less clear instinct as to how common it is in either of those countries.

  9. MutleyPlain said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

    I'd suggest this use of well with adjectives is pretty common in non-standard BrE, particularly with evaluative adjectives – well good, well dodgy, well wicked, well hard, well ugly.

  10. garicgymro said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

    I may be wrong on it being perceived as a young-person thing, by the way.

  11. Wyatt said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

    "Well aware" aside, I consider this a distinctly English/British construction. I once worked with a fellow from Aldershot who frequently used the term "well fit" to describe women as very attractive.

  12. brian said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

    The use of "well" as an adjective in English slang (I don't know about other Britons) is well common, blud.

    There's even a (terrible) TV programme called "Lee Nelson's well good show".

  13. JasonT said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

    As a yankee living in West Yorkshire, I can attest to having heard "well X" in a number of situations where only "very X" would have sounded right to my native ear: "well fit" as stated above; "well hungry"; "well rough" or "well awful" (as in "that rugby match was well rough" or "his singing was well awful"; and so on.) I can't recall "well brutal," but Lottie's use read like perfectly straightforward West Yorkshire to me.

  14. mollymooly said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

    "well out of order" and "well 'ard" are the two instances that leapt to my mind.

  15. Mike said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

    I can confirim that this form is well (ha!) common in the UK, more amongst young people and is non-standard.

  16. Michelle said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

    It is generally a young person's slang in England. It is not considered proper or correct, so it is very fitting for a care-free youth who is not interested in school, like Lottie!

    You say it with a stress on "well"

  17. Ben Zimmer said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

    You can hear well fit, well nice, and well bing-bing (oops!) in this clip from The Catherine Tate Show (previously featured on Language Log here).

  18. Jon Weinberg said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:09 pm

    From http://www.effingpot.com/slang.shtml, which describes itself as "The American's guide to speaking British":

    Well can be used to accentuate other words. for example someone might be "well hard" to mean he is a real man, as opposed to just "hard". Something really good might be "well good". Or if you were really really pleased with something you might be "well chuffed". Grammatically it's appalling but people say it anyway.

  19. Minivet said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

    If you go to 6:48 of this video, and watch for a short time, you'll see Stephen Fry (Norfolk) saying "He was well gay." But there's a chuckle from the audience which seems to me to be in response to the phrasing choice – maybe because Fry's speaking in a way slightly too young for him?

  20. Sonny said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:11 pm

    It's just a slang thing – it's quite commonly used to mean 'really' or 'very' as in "The weather was well cold" or "That's well cool"

  21. MsH said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:16 pm

    How do you measure it? The best-known usage I can think of is "well (h)ard" meaning tough or disposed to violence.

    I also regard "well out of order" as standard.

  22. garicgymro said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

    One thing worth mentioning, which no one else has: The stress goes on "well", not the adjective itself. In this respect it behaves differently from many other intensifiers.

  23. John said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

    Appears quite frequently in Clockwork Orange.

  24. Laura said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

    @Minivet: The chuckle is because it's non-standard, and Fry is known for 'speaking posh' – he uses slang terms only ironically (gah – generalisation about language – cue millions of counterexamples). I dunno that it's too young for him, exactly, but certainly too colloquial.

  25. Robert Coren said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

    @Oskar: I'd be more inclined to group "well rid" with the "well"+ past participle that Mark refers to parenthetically, where I take "well" to mean "in a good fashion" rather than being a general intensifier. A "well-played" ball is one that has been played well, not one has been played thoroughly (whatever that might mean); and similarly, to say that one is well rid of something is to say that it's a good thing to be rid of it — i.e., "good riddance".

  26. B.T.Carolus said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

    Ben Zimmer beat me to mentioning Catherine Tate's Lauren. She says "English is well dry" at the very beginning of this clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=WxB1gB6K-2A

  27. a George said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:39 pm

    @KeithB: the "well" you are referring to is the contemplating stance, calling for a small pause. The way I would hear it, it could not be overlaid the Lottie statement. It would have worked, if she had said "two, well, THREE brutal murders …..". In the awful dinner case, the stress would be on awful, after the contemplation.

  28. David L said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

    A London friend of mine who moved to Boston (this was about 20 years ago) told me that her use of "well wicked," to describe a fetching pair of shoes, for example, was roughly equivalent to "wicked good" in Boston.

  29. Ian Tindale said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

    It's a bit of a chav thing, though, innit?

  30. Maurice said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

    I well like this intensifer.
    How about "well well"? Very well. "Well, well well"; Very, very well; or Well, very well.

    Well, we'll see.

  31. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

    I remember it coming into widespread usage in the 1980's, and being commented on at the time. I was particularly struck by people saying 'I was well pleased', a phrase which is straight out of the Authorised/King James Bible, but which had since become non-standard.

  32. Gene Callahan said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

    "I recall Ali G frequently using well fit to describe attractive women."

    And "well minky" to describe a gold-digger.

  33. Cameron Majidi said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

    Definitely quite a common usage. And not all that recent. The song "Well Sick" by The Blood dates from the early 80s: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSlOQN9f45w

  34. ELDV said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

    As a 'young person' from London, I would say that this is widely used, and I'm currently studying abroad, and other anglophone students (Australians and Americans) find this usage well funny.
    But to me, this seems a bit of an early-2000s thing, like the Ali G example of 'well fit', whereas more recently (in London anyway) 'bare' would be used in a similar situation, "those shoes are bare expensive!"

  35. Adrian said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 2:12 pm

    Since I'm not down wiv de yoof, I haven't noticed "bare" meaning "very", though I can now see it's well common.

    What strikes me about "bare" is
    (1) the similarity with the Estuary English pronunciation of "better", i.e. /bɛ?ə/
    (2) the similarity with an affected posh pronunciation of "very", i.e. /vɛə/

  36. Nathan said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

    @Robert Coren: I've always interepreted well rid of in the exact opposite sense: "thoroughly rid of" as opposed to "good riddance."

  37. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

    @Nathan: I'd interpreted it the same way that Robert Coren does, but even under your interpretation, "rid" is still a past participle. "X is rid of Y" is the passive of "___ has rid X of Y." So it's analogous to "well known", "well accepted", and so on.

  38. Mark Mandel said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

    @KeithB and @a George: I read it much as Keith did — with a pause before and after the "well", which I thought should have been shown with punctuation* till I read Mark's post. Though I didn't think of the "well" as intensifying so much as indicating "Hang on, I'm trying to think of an appropriate word here… got it! [brutal]".

    * e.g.: "TWO … WELL, BRUTAL MURDERS"

  39. Ben Hemmens said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 3:17 pm

    Well 'ard is the phrase that comes to mind; and I'd blame Brookside. (The soap opera, for the non-brits)

  40. J. W. Brewer said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

    How does this usage of "well" compare to the BrEng use of "right" as an intensifier in examples like "a right hungry chap" or "a right royal knees-up" or "I can be a right vicious bitch when I want to be"? (All examples I just googled up.) I assume this modern/informal usage is somehow related to the archaic/formal usages of "right" in which a bishop is "Right Reverend" and a holder of high secular office is "Right Honourable," which seems parallel to the ways in which this usage of "well" is apparently shared between the King James Version and modern "chav" culture.

  41. Mr Fnortner said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

    Please take a quick break and tell me if "well wishes" is an actual thing. It seems to be quite a leap to go from the concept of wishing someone well to the notion that wishes can be well. I'd be happier hearing "good wishes," as in "We extended our good wishes to the visitor" (rather than "We extended our well wishes….").

  42. Clive said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

    "Well-hard" is commonly used in mock (and sometimes real) East London slang – see reference to Bob Hoskins' London gangster movie from The Guardian.

  43. Katje said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

    Sasha Baron Cohen, as Ali G. in this clip from a "Christmas message" from "Da Ali G. Show", at around the 7:36 mark says, "Now these kids 'ere, they ain't that poor, but they IS well annoying":

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBvhg_HEDP0&feature=related

  44. Clive said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 4:26 pm

    …bother, missed the url describing "The Long Good Friday":
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2002/jan/08/tvandradio.television

  45. Bob Ladd said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

    As someone who is not originally British and decidedly no longer young, I react to this usage as something young British people say (middle class Scottish teenagers, to be precise). But I wouldn't say it's non-standard or chavvy, though it's certainly informal and colloquial. Just to be sure, I just checked with my 17-year-old son, and in particular checked that you can put well in front of lots of different adjectives. He assured me that it is "well normal".
    Also, with my intonational phonologist's hat on, I disagree that "the" stress is on well. Certainly well is prominent, but so is the adjective (if you want to get technical, the adjective is usually downstepped but not deaccented).

  46. ProudToBeAMammal said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

    So somebody who is "well pretty" is prettier than one who is just "pretty pretty"?

  47. scav said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

    Note from the west of Scotland: I have always thought of "well" used that way as being a kind of London thing, but have no evidence to back that up.

    Nowadays, neds (what we call chavs) are using "heavy" in the same way. As in
    "that wiz heavy bersht by the way".

    BTW I don't know what bersht ( /bɛrʃt/ ) means exactly. It seems to be positive. Can anyone help with the etymology? I'm guessing it's more likely from Gaelic than Bulgarian, but anyone's guess is probably better than mine.

  48. Jake said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 5:08 pm

    See also "well over a million"

  49. MJP said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

    I like my steak well rare.

  50. Cameron Majidi said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

    Here in the States the equivalent in current slang would be "mad".

  51. goofy said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

    Ace used it in Doctor Who in the late 80s.

  52. Yatima said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

    My favourite example is from the 2005 BBC comedy "Nathan Barley", in which the title character describes his awful phone (the "Wasp T12 Speechtool") as "well weapon."

  53. EndlessWaves said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

    ProudToBeAMammal: Yep.

    It's a general intensifier so you can use it in front of virtually any adjective. 'Well Erudite, 'Well Green' and 'Well Disgusted' are all likely to be widely understood.

  54. Eric P Smith said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

    @ProudToBeAMammal: Pretty well.

  55. Ken Brown said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 6:27 pm

    So this is the ultimate recency illusion?

    We usually quote Jane Austen and the AV Bible to back up our Englishisms. But King Alfred and the Venerable Bede? That' well cool. Innit?

  56. Adrian said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 6:29 pm

    @Mr Fnortner
    "Well wishes" is wrong. My guess is that someone has misheard or misunderstood "well-wishers".

  57. Ken Brown said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 6:32 pm

    Tho to be honest I don't think I use "well" this way myself much. Unlike "innit" which has been part of my speech since childhood (1960s, Brighton,council estate)

  58. ProudToBeAMammal said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 6:36 pm

    @EndlessWaves & Eric P Smith: Thanks!

  59. Xmun said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

    I think that in at least some of the examples given above, the "well" ought to have been enclosed within a pair of commas. Like the example given by Keith B (sixth comment from the top).

  60. The Ridger said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

    I would have said the US equivalent was "fully", but I'm in my 50s so not up on what the kids are saying these days.

  61. Michael Ellis said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 7:43 pm

    There are more examples of this use of "well" in the sketches of Armstrong and Miller (which can be found on Youtube), e.g. :

    "well funny"
    "blinged them well up"
    "well loose"
    "well random"

    Also other interesting admixtures like:
    "for sure", "blood"
    "isn't it" (generalized)

  62. Robin Sterns said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 7:48 pm

    In the U.S. Virgin Islands, this construction is pretty common. Examples from CrucianDictionary.com:
    Definition: used as an adjective to indicate "extremely" ("a well-dead dahg.")
    Source: Page 94, Sterns, Robin. Say it in Crucian! A Complete Guide to Today's Crucian for Speakers of Standard English. St. Croix: Antilles Press, 2008.
    Example: "I know Chantelle well fraid me!" = "I know Chantelle is very afraid of me."
    Posted by: missmichelle, 2009.

  63. Russell said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 7:58 pm

    @The Ridger

    Perhaps "crazy"?

  64. dazeystarr said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 8:06 pm

    FWIW, James Joyce used it at least once to modify a past participle rather than an adjective.

    From "Araby": "When the short days of winter came, dusk fell before we had well eaten our dinners."

  65. Nathan Myers said,

    December 15, 2011 @ 11:28 pm

    John Allison's brilliant comix make good examples, but it might be a mistake to draw conclusions about common English from them. I gather John hails from Wales, where in common usage you find a much more appealing grade of English than most of us can muster.

  66. bv said,

    December 16, 2011 @ 12:17 am

    She also uses 'Well Mental' (or at least 'wew mintaw') on the 5th december strip

  67. Kenny said,

    December 16, 2011 @ 1:40 am

    I just wanted to throw in an American example of intensifier well that doesn't involve a past participle: "well beyond the scope of this ___" (lesson, book, chapert, etc.)".

    I think it's an anomalous set phrase, since I don't find MsH's well out of order as standard, though that doesn't strike me as being nearly as strange as the other British examples.

    [(myl) There are several general categories where well remains in general use as an adverbial intensifier in the standard language. This one is the OED's sense 18.b. "With advs. and preps. of place or direction, in later use freq. in figurative phrases". Some of the OED's citations for this sense:

    c1330  (1300)    Sir Tristrem (1886) l. 22   His name, it sprong wel wide.
    1473    J. Paston in Paston Lett. & Papers (2004) I. 463   Som men thynke it wysdom‥to be theer now, weell owt off the weye.
    1840    R. H. Dana Two Years before Mast xxxv. 133   The Captain stood well to the westward, to run inside the Bermudas.
    1895    Law Times' Rep. 72 817/1   A woman well past the age of childbearing.

    The instresting thing about the history of well is that (in standard English) it apparently changed from quite general use as an adverbial intensifier, to an increasingly (and apparently idiosyncratically) narrowed set of residual contexts.]

  68. Dan H said,

    December 16, 2011 @ 5:32 am

    Another Brit here and yeah, common but non-standard around these parts. I'd also dispute the idea that it's something "young people" say except insofar as "young people" tend to speak more informally in general. As several people have pointed out, this goes back to at least the 80s.

    [(myl) That would be the 880's, right?]

  69. pj said,

    December 16, 2011 @ 5:47 am

    @Michael Ellis – good call, yes. But perhaps to clarify for those unfamiliar with their oeuvre, you mean the subset of Armstrong & Miller sketches wherein they specifically parody modern young urban speech in the character and clipped old-fashioned accents of WWII airmen (the comedy arising from the incongruity). Example including 'well hardcore' and 'well strict'.
    I don't have 'well' like this myself, but Londoner friends of my age (30s) do in informal speech – also 'proper' as an intensifier in the same way.

  70. Amy de Buitléir said,

    December 16, 2011 @ 6:18 am

    In Donegal and Northern Ireland, "wile" is used in a similar way, e.g., "that exam was wile hard." Sometims you'll hear people say "wild" instead of "wile". But now I wonder if "wile" is derived from that use of "well", and "wild" has just been retrofitted onto "wile".

  71. Fred said,

    December 16, 2011 @ 6:20 am

    I remember this schoolboy joke from the 1980s: "Why are the buses in London so intelligent? 'Cos they're all well red"…

  72. Pflaumbaum said,

    December 16, 2011 @ 8:43 am

    In addition to bare, mentioned above, pure as intensifier is common in MLE. But, unlike well, neither of these would be used in other non-standard dialects (some of which could have right in this position).

  73. Cameron Majidi said,

    December 16, 2011 @ 11:03 am

    @Russel and The Ridger

    The current US slang equivalent, at least in New York where I'm standing, is definitely "mad". Mad pretty, mad expensive, etc. and things like that are usages I hear literally every day.

    This slang sense of "mad" is a bit more flexible than the British slang sense of "well". Mad + adjective is an intensifier meaning "very", or "fully". But you can also use mad + plural noun, or mad + mass noun to mean "lots of" or " a great many", and "well" doesn't work that way in Britain.

  74. John Baker said,

    December 16, 2011 @ 11:50 am

    In the linked strip, Charlotte characteristically has nonstandard speaking patterns, and adjectival "well" would appear to be an example, chosen for that purpose. Another example occurs in the fifth panel of the same strip, when Shelley, an adult, is reading from Charlotte's notes in Charlotte's stead: "And the person what . . . who done did these murders is–" Shelley has changed nonstandard "what" to standard "who," but she still is defeated by Charlotte's word choices.

  75. Adam said,

    December 16, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

    Well ADJ is certainly common in Yorkshire and easily adopted. I don't think I could easily stop saying "well dodgy" (for example) if I moved back to the USA.

  76. StuartB said,

    December 16, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

    Like a previous commentator, I always thought this was originally London usage: see the TV series "Minder" (1979-1994), where it's frequent.
    Just to note that there is a big difference between the 'standard' use of well as an adjective modifier (OED 16.B) and this colloquial use: in standard English you could say "I am well aware of that." or "He is well able to understand…", but you wouldn't say "He is a well aware person" or "She is a well able person." I don't use "well" in the colloquial way at all, but then I'm in my late sixties (and not from London). But the youngest members of my family (in Lancashire) seem almost to have dropped "very" altogether in favour of "well"

  77. Alex said,

    December 16, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

    This usage always reminds me of Vicky Pollard (http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/littlebritain/characters/vicky.shtml)

    Here it is 3 times in 4 lines of dialogue:
    Vicki: No, but, yeh, but, no, but,, what are they doin' on our patch or sumthin' or nuffin' or sorta like thing coz they is well gonna get beat-ins!
    Vicky's gang member #3: Cool it Vicky, they're well hard.
    Vicky's gang member #1: Yeerh, they give the Rettinen Sisters a bog wash.
    Vicky Pollard: They don't scare me. Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got, I'm just Vicky Pollard from round the corner from the block. V to the P to the icky to the ollard. Ohmigod. This is well hectic!

    But it's very common in Spanish to use "bien" (well) just like this, and as far as I know it's not restricted to a particular urban dialect as it seems to be in English. eg Su hermano es bien gordo. His brother is very fat.

  78. Warsaw Will said,

    December 17, 2011 @ 7:50 am

    Another Lauren link, this time for 'that's well bad':
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6e8o9eefIY.
    I wrote an exercise on this use of 'well' on my blog for advanced learners a few months ago. Just Google 'Using well as an intensifier' if you're interested.

  79. lukys said,

    December 17, 2011 @ 10:38 am

    As someone from Lancashire, England, "well ADJ" is something of a staple.
    If I remember correctly, it's not something meddling adults tended to like, but these were the sort who asked us smarmily were we horses when we said "nay" instead of "no", so what do they know?

  80. DaveK said,

    December 17, 2011 @ 11:03 am

    It seems that in Standard English, "well–" is only used in cases where it's possible to use "ill-" for its opposite:

    well-fitting / ill-fitting
    well-able / ill-able
    well-aware / ill-aware
    well-prepared / ill-prepared

    Of course, you could explain Lottie's comment to a lot of Americans by saying "well brutal" means "ill brutal" and they'd understand perfectly.

  81. Martin Keegan said,

    December 19, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

    So, as an Australian moving to Yorkshire in 1990, I was called "well weird", and had never heard this use of "well" before, and had to have it explained to me; I concur with the poster above that it's unknown in Australia.

    It seems to have been regarded as "Northern", hence the joke "This, children, is a right angled triangle. Or, if you're from the other side of Watford Gap, a well angled triangle".

  82. Lucy said,

    December 19, 2011 @ 6:55 pm

    You can also use 'dead+adjective' an an intensifier in exactly the same way as well, with a similar degree of non-standardness, eg 'That exam was dead hard' 'She's dead fit'

    No idea if this is exclusively BrE but I'd guess so.

  83. Liz said,

    January 31, 2012 @ 2:52 am

    I'm from New Zealand, and when I was on a university exchange in the UK a few years ago I frequently heard 'well' being used before an adjective. One noteworthy example was a guy who campaigned for a student council position with the following slogan:
    "Vote Tommy for Welfare because he's well fair"

  84. Liz said,

    January 31, 2012 @ 3:19 am

    Also, in NZ we use 'as', but after the adjective. e.g. "That's sweet as!", or "I'm beached as, bro" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdVHZwI8pcA).

    Apparently in Australia they use 'heaps' (I have been told this today, so let me know if I'm wrong). As in "That cow's heaps big". I am tempted to say that the use of 'heaps' at 0:33 in the video above is because it was made by Australians, as I don't think it is commonly used that way in NZ.

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