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'Generous' can be used to describe an amount of credit-given or leniency. When used in this way, what is the counterpart word that would imply a lack of leniency? The closest word I have is 'austere', but I'm not convinced 'austerely' is a word.

The phrase that sparked this was:

"... tells us the nature of humanity is, generously, rebellion or, ____ly, malice".

I was trying to illustrate my point and that was the phrase that came out; I stumbled over the blank space. We checked Thesaurus.com and Merriam-Webster with the best suggestions being 'parsimoniously' or 'miserly', but both have monetary connotations.

  • In this context you could use "otherwise" in place of your wanted word. – The Photon Jan 24 at 23:23
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    @Lambie I understand it to mean "if we are generous [something previously mentioned] tellls us the nature of humanity is rebellion, and if we are [otherwise] its nature is malice". The pile-up of adverbs and adjectives is difficult to parse but not ungrammatical. Whether it's meaningful to say "the nature of humanity is rebellion" is a question of semantics, not syntax. – The Photon Jan 24 at 23:49
  • Frankly would work in contrast to the usual sense of generously to mean being charitable with respect to motives. – Phil Sweet Jan 24 at 23:58
  • It is a poor construction. A generous interpretation of humanity tells us it is rebellious and an ungenerous one, malicious. – Lambie Jan 25 at 0:00
  • One sense of 'cynically' (see Mike Graham's answer) means 'putting the worst possible construction on something', but the phrasing sounds unnatural. The use of 'generously' here, while not wrong, is most unusual. ""... tells us that the nature of humanity is, if one is being charitable, rebellion – or to be painfully blunt, malice". – Edwin Ashworth Jan 25 at 12:58
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In this case, cynically or uncharitably would fit pretty well.

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  • I'd rephrase, but there's no doubt that these words come closest to being reasonable fits in the sample sentence. But answers on ELU are considered good when they are accompanied by supporting evidence, especially where that is easily found. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 25 at 13:01

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