Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 01:14:00 -0600
From: "Donald M. Lance"
Subject: Re: flat

As a native-speaker of adverbial _flat_, I can easily say "She's flat
brilliant," with _flat_ being an adverb rather than an adjectival modifier
of 'brilliant'. The intonation is different in this sentence than in
"She's flat broke" (meaning she doesn't have any money). It's also
possible for me to say "She's flat broke" meaning that its flat true that
she's broke. Syllable-lengthening and pitch contours differentiate between
adverbial and adjectival uses. I have a strong suspicion that 'flat out'
and adverbial 'flat' are Southernisms.

>At 11:50 AM -0700 4/9/98, Peter Richardson wrote:
>>This morning on NPR there was an interview with a survivor of that
>>horrible tornado that killed so many in Alabama. Her statement included:
>>"...a lotta people who are gonna flat need prayer..."
>>I'm wondering about the distribution of _flat_ as an intensifier, since it
>>appears not to be in DARE. The RHHDAS lists it as an adverb, as in "I'm
>>flat broke"--something I heard growing up in Illinois. But this
>>intensifying function seems rarer. Any ideas?
>There's also the related (I assume) "flat-out". I've heard "he can flat
>out play", "he flat-out blew the call", and "he's a flat-out superstar", or
>their equivalents in sportscasterese, and I'm sure it would turn up all
>over the place on Nexis. The first "flat" above does sound like a
>regionalism to me, though. (And I wonder about the
>distribution--collocational, not geographic--of the intensifying "flat" of
>"flat broke". I can imagine "flat-out brilliant", but not "flat
>brilliant", in my own idiolect.) The OED does have "flat broke" as a
>specific Americanism dating back at least to Bartlett's 1859 Dictionary,
>but then it also has the interesting 1601 cite "I am flat of your mind"
>under the heading of adverbial FLAT = 'absolutely, downright, fully'. And
>then there's the related postposed "flat" = 'exactly' (three minutes flat)
>or 'completely' (turned me down flat). They all seem to suggest something
>like 'no two ways about it.'
>Larry (Horn)