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Is it correct to say that a barkeep was "adroitly pouring out drinks behind the bar"? Something rubs me the wrong way here. Perhaps it would be better to use some synonym in this context? If so, which one?

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    It's true that deftly poured is ten times more likely than adroitly poured, but why should the less common usage rub you up the wrong way? – FumbleFingers Oct 1 '13 at 20:55
  • Well, I'm not sure why, but as noted below, adroitly seems too formal for this context. Thanks for your links, though! Comparing them to neatly, expertly and nimbly I'm going to stick with deftly. – Alex Mayants Oct 1 '13 at 21:10
  • I don't think "formality" is really the relevant concept here. It's just that deftly has gradually displaced adroitly and dexterously over the past century and a half. But note that all three of those (relatively uncommon) words usually imply skilled handling, which is not the case with alternatives such as neatly, expertly, nimbly, etc. – FumbleFingers Oct 1 '13 at 21:44
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I see nothing wrong with this usage. But I agree it is stilted. My preference would be for expertly or neatly.

  • "Neatly" might work, but it hints at a double meaning here, even if it's unintended. – Canis Lupus Oct 2 '13 at 17:07
  • Don't think 'neatly' can be used in the same sense of 'neat' - unless there is yet another implication that eludes me? – user49727 Oct 2 '13 at 17:10
  • Probably not, but it wouldn't be a stretch for someone to consider it to be a pun, even if it wasn't meant to be. – Canis Lupus Oct 2 '13 at 17:12
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It is absolutely grammatically correct. I suspect that it is the fact that adroitly is very formal and is not commonly used in everyday speech that is making it sound incorrect to you. To be honest, if I were speaking about a bartender, I wouldn't use the word adroitly, but that's simply my personal preference; that doesn't make it incorrect.

Expertly, proficiently, and masterfully would all work in that sentence. There are many other synonyms as well.

  • thanks for the comment. My question was not about the grammar, but about word choice. I'm not a native speaker, so I often don't quite feel the nuances of meaning. I was referring to physical smoothness in the original sentence, so how would nimbly fit in? – Alex Mayants Oct 1 '13 at 20:36
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    There's very little difference in meaning between expertly, masterfully, skilfully, (and many other synonyms) and adroitly. Often there are subtle nuances or starkly different connotations in words with similar definitions; however, in the specific example that you've cited, all of the synonyms that I have mentioned make almost no difference in the meaning. All express the same idea, which is that the bartender is an expert or that s/he does an exceptionally fine job preparing cocktails. As a native speaker of American English, it sounds odd to me too, but only because of the formality. – Giambattista Oct 1 '13 at 20:46

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