101 Words I Don't Use
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  Copyright 2017 by Paul Niquette  All rights reserved.

awfully is an adverb made out of the adjective awful, which 700 years ago started out meaning "worthy of fear," "causing dread." Over about 500 years awful changed its meaning to "very bad" gradually taking on a weakened sense of "excessively," "great."  The reverential sense of awful has been appropriated by awesome in modern times.  Meanwhile, the word awfully has been enlisted to strengthen various negative adjectives: angry, bad, bitter, calloused, fat, ugly, hard, quarrelsome sad, skinny, silly, sorry, sour, stupid, tired, tough, wrinkled, wrong.  Nowadays one finds awfully routinely preceding positive adjectives: attractive, beautiful, darling, funny, generous, good, huge, humorous, kind, nice, pretty, proud, slender, sweet.

In negative phrases, awfully is usually not needed.  Its presence can actually weaken the adjective it is intended to strengthen (see very).  And in positive phrases awfully is -- well, unintentionally contradictory. 
Seems to me that "awfully nice" makes no more sense than "horribly beautiful."
That latter example takes us into the amusingly serious realm of self-reference (see elegancelessness), to which one might offer...
  • astoundingly ordinary
  • attractively ugly
  • enormously petite
  • incredibly likely
  • open-mindedly opinionated
  • pridefully humble
  • openly secretive
  • stiffly receptive
  • generously stingy
  • sparklingly drab
  • obviously farfetched
  • quizzically incurious
  • ubiquitously rare
  • plainly distinguished
  • carelessly painstaking
  • fabulously stodgy
  • unconscionably sensitive
  • predictably irregular
  • gently insensitive
  • strangely familiar
  • famously private
  • unbelievably honest
  • wonderfully crass
  • attractively ugly

  • shamelessly embarrassed

  • earnestly dismissive

  • ridiculously serious

  • cheaply decorated think dime-store Purple Heart worn by a candidate

  • sparsely crowded think attendance at the Inauguration on January 20, 2017

  • fantastically realistic
That last example calls to mind "virtual reality" and some self-contradictory noun phrases, which one might invent...
  • proverbial fact
  • legendary principle
  • memorable whatchamacallit
  • unhinged rationality
  • forgettable reminders
  • educated dullard
  • untrained expert
  • salubrious vulgarian

  • mythical truth

  • melancholic smile

  • humble pride

  • literally figurative

  • solemn laughter

  • funereal gaiety

  • forgotten mnemonics

  • frowning grin

  • compassionate conservative

Readers are invited to submit their awfully creative discoveries here.

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