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.
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
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...
– think dime-store Purple Heart worn by a
crowded – think attendance at the Inauguration
on January 20, 2017
That last example calls to mind "virtual reality" and
some self-contradictory noun phrases, which one
Readers are invited to submit their
awfully creative discoveries here.