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I'm curious if there are any examples in poetry of the word previously being contracted to three syllables, by contracting it to prev'ously, or some variant spelling. It would seem that we are keeping the v consonant but eliminating the i sound. Is this ever done?

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  • Who knows? In poetry, anything goes. See how charmingly EE Cummings squishes the kids together in [in Just-] poetryfoundation.org/poems/47247/in-just
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 17:42
  • Generally, the more artificial the device, the less satisfactory the result. Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 18:29
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    For poetry, you can treat the word previous as two syllables, even without changing the spelling. Shakespeare seems not to have used the word previous, but he does treat the similar words glorious and curious as two syllables. He writes "Full many a glorious morning have I seen" and "If my slight Muse do please these curious days," in his sonnets Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 22:59
  • @PeterShor Thanks for the tip! That is very good to know.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 23:00

2 Answers 2

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My cat had mischievously

Scratched the door grievously

Damaging the paint I'd applied prev'ously

:-)

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After checking the OED, Google Books, poetryfoundation.org (via Google), and EEBO, I was not able to find any examples of prev’ously. I was able to find just one example of prev’ous though (making it extremely rare):

While Turks and Pagans, and the stubborn Jews,
Had something  prev'ous, helping them to chuse:
The last, their Circumcision had before,
And learnt only one Deity t'adore,

(Grotius, his arguments for the truth of Christian religion rendred into plain English verse, 1684)

This source is old, and it has many examples of what I would describe as over-the-top use of apostrophes (such as o'th', w'Examples, and liv'd & dy'd, and liv'd) so I would not really suggest emulating it.

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  • I wonder if my little effort will ever be indexed :-)
    – Owain
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 19:27

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