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According to grammarist.com, the word muchly is regarded as obsolete. I and many of the people I know use the word regularly, however, frequently in situations where it would seem to me much would be incorrect. Examples:

Thanks muchly for the insightful gift!

He was muchly peeved when he found out what had happened to his car.

Are our usages acceptable within 'Standard English'? How common is formal use of the word? What about informal use? When did this word stop being normal regular everyday English?

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    To what degree is the word obsolete? Muchly. ;)
    – MathAdam
    Sep 14 '15 at 3:47
  • Have you ever tried to find muchly in a dictionary? Might be a specialty of a dialect but it certainly is not standard English.
    – rogermue
    Sep 14 '15 at 4:05
  • @rogermue It's in Websters and Oxford. Apparently not the AHD, though. Sep 14 '15 at 5:44
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    Oxford clearly says: Now considered substandard. - Perhaps they should add: Still in use in some dialects.
    – rogermue
    Sep 14 '15 at 7:09
  • I heard it used in a consciously self-deprecating manner -- knowingly substandard. I might use it among friends, but not in correspondence or formal situations. Sep 14 '15 at 8:06
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I doubt there are degrees of 'obsolete'. However, interpreting your question as I assume you intended it, there is a process of obsolescence (growing or becoming obsolete), which may be more or less advanced. In the case of 'muchly', that process is ... greatly advanced.

The OED does not mark the principal sense of 'muchly' (adv.) as obsolete:

1.

a. Much, exceedingly, greatly.

Beneath that sense, the editors have added in small type this annotation:

In later use usually with conscious humour, or for some other deliberate effect.

They do say "usually", and are careful to observe "or for some other deliberate effect". The effect need not be humorous.

For that sense, historical quotes are given dated to 1988. The lack of context does not allow me to judge with any degree of certainty whether 'muchly' is used humorously or not, or what other "deliberate effect" might have been desired. In regards to this last, the "deliberate effect" desired might well be to convey a (somewhat archaic, but not obsolete) conventional sense of formality and politeness.

Sense 1b is also not marked as obsolete:

b. humorous. ta (also thanks) muchly and variants: thank you very much.

And, while marked as humorous, the humor is light. For this sense, quotes are given dated to 1996.

From this evidence I infer that the obsolescence of 'muchly' is advanced, but not yet terminal.

For sense 2, however,

†2. Chiefly, largely. Obs. rare

the process is complete. 'Muchly' in this sense is obsolete. The only quote given is dated 1882.

[Definition from "muchly, adv.". OED Online. September 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/123141?redirectedFrom=muchly (accessed September 14, 2015).]

So, lastly, the answers I have for your non-titular four questions are these:

  1. "Are our usages acceptable within 'Standard English'?"

Yes, I think the uses you exampled are quite acceptable.

  1. "How common is formal use of the word?"

I'm not sure what is meant by "formal" in this context, but anyway, not very common at all.

  1. "What about informal use?"

Again, not very common, but, largely speaking, I suspect "informal" use is more common than "formal".

  1. "When did this word stop being normal regular everyday English?"

That's a tough question for me to answer on the basis of the evidence readily available to me (I'm lazy), but from the historical evidence I have looked at (comparing the historical adverbial use of 'much' in the sense given for 1a of 'muchly', that is, 'greatly'), I'm guessing the process of obsolescence began in the late 19th century and picked up pace through the middle of the 20th, then leveled off in its current state.

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    Why shouldn't there be degrees of obsoleteness?
    – Robusto
    Sep 14 '15 at 10:51
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    There are certainly degrees of obsolescence. I'm not sure about degrees of obsoleteness.
    – alephzero
    Sep 14 '15 at 12:50
  • @Robusto, the OP didn't ask about 'obsoleteness', but even if it had, the 'state or condition of being' (obsoleteness) 'no longer used' (obsolete) doesn't admit degrees. I take 'degree' as used in the title of the OP to mean 'a step or stage in a process'. The process is 'obsolescence'. Of course, if you're asking something like "why shouldn't" we speak as indefinitely as we please when defining words, that's another story, and probably a long fruitless story. To make the story short: you should speak as loosely as you please, and I, as loosely as I must.
    – JEL
    Sep 15 '15 at 7:04
  • @JEL: What if a thing is obsolete in England, say, but not in Ireland? It is both obsolete and not obsolete. Yet it is less obsolete than a thing that is obsolete in both countries.
    – Robusto
    Sep 16 '15 at 10:58
  • @Robusto, I think you're getting at a difference in kind or type rather than degree. The water is clouded by other definitional differences, among lexical, precising, intensional, extensional, ostensive et al. definitions. I was troubled giving my answer, and my responses to your comments, by this: how can a dictionary call 'obsolete' any word still used (e.g., used in dictionaries as a lemma). The balm for my trouble was that dictionary definitions are lexical, and constrained by mundane temporality. The type of 'obsolete' you ask about is local, but English in use is the lexical domain.
    – JEL
    Sep 16 '15 at 18:13
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According to the following sources, its usage is obsolete and "much" is the current preferred form. Its usage is now confined to humorous/informal contexts:

According to the Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style muchly:

  • is now considered substandard—a nonword—though several centuries ago it was not so stigmatized. Much is the preferred form in all adverbial contexts.

The Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage says:

  • muchly used to mean 'much, exceedingly' ( first recorded in the 17th century in poetry, though it is not listed In Johnson's Dict, 1755.) but it is now a humorous variant of "much" ( eg. thank you muchly for the chocolates).

  • The OED entry tracks its descent from seriousness to jokiness, and it was already used jokily In 1881.

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Muchly is about as obsolete as crapulous, but not as obsolete as grumpish or twattle. At least, according to Google Ngram .

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Sorry for making this an answer, my reputation does not allow me to write comments.

I just want to point out that "muchly" does not have a direct correlation to "much" despite the definitions shown in other replies.

Thanks much for the gift

He was much peeved

I would rather transform it to "very much" or "a lot" for the sentences to make sense:

Thanks a lot for the gift

He was very much peeved

I understand that a definition is not the same as a direct substitution between words, so I'm not pinning a mistake on the Oxford Dictionary. It just makes more sense to me to use these composite expressions.

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  • “Thanks much” is quite ungrammatical, but “much peeved” is all right to me. Consider the entirely parallel “much obliged”. Sep 14 '15 at 9:59
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    Well, I agree that "Much obliged" is a valid sentence, but still I would not say "Much peeved". It may be valid (just as muchly is) but it feels obsolete.
    – legrojan
    Sep 14 '15 at 10:58
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As "much" can be used as adjective and adverb an adverb ending -ly is not required. I doubt that the word form muchly ever existed in standard English. AHD (American Heritage Dictionary) has no muchly.

Added:

In a dialect dictionary I found an entry of muchly with the note "obsolete". Link. Astonishingly Google Ngram Viewer has "muchly", but I suppose the sources are passages given in dialect.

,

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    It indeed existed, and in fact was a preferred form in certain usages for some time. My response to your comment should make clear that it is, indeed, a recognized word in many (if not most) major dictionaries. Sep 14 '15 at 5:46
  • Could you name such a dictionary.
    – rogermue
    Sep 14 '15 at 6:19

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