English Question: To wax eloquent?

Why do people say: “I can wax eloquent about…” instead of: “I can wax eloquently about…”? For some reason, the former just doesn’t look or sound correct to me. It must be correct usage, since I hear it so often. But I thought adverbs have to be used to modify verbs.

Well, the verb to wax* is synonymous with to grow, in the sense of to become. So while it’s grammatical to say “I grow eloquent”, “I can grow eloquent”, and “I can grow eloquent quickly”, you can’t say “I can grow eloquently” in that sense. You have to grow something.

:mutters some nonsense about transitive and intransitive and runs off:

  • cognate of Yiddish vaksn, to grow; there must be a German cognate too.

Yeah, what EmeraldGrue said. Wax in this case is used in the same sense as the moon “waxing and waning”.

The sense is the same as “to come over all eloquent” – in that phrase you wouldn’t use the adverb either.

You can also wax wroth if your angry. Roth can wax you for awhile.

Especially in soviet russia!

Yes, indeed: wachsen.

Since the original question’s been answered, are there any other things people wax? People wax nostalgic and they wax repulsive . . . what else?

They wax poetic.

Surely “waxing lyrical” is the commonest such phrase?

And the moon waxes and wanes.

I’ve never heard anyone say it, but surely many a Doper waxes pedantic?

A Mafia hitman wax stool pigeons.

I always mentally substitute the phrase “become more and more” for the verb wax, thus “I can become more and more eloquent about…” rather than “I can become more and more eloquently about…” which doesn’t make sense.

Speaking of pedantic, when I was a freshman in college, I wrote a poem that begins, “I wax philosophic at times like these…”

I used “waxing repulsive” once in a bit of magnetic poetry on my fridge.

I prefer to wax elephants.

I know it’s been a few days since this thread was active, but I just had to add something that reminded me of it. I was walking down the street around 7:30 p.m. when I overheard two guys talking about the brilliant and nearly round moon. “Do you think it’s just coming from being full, or just about to be full?” one of them asked the other. I had to stifle the urge to go over and say, "Hmmm…is it waxing or is it waning?

I believe in the Steve Martin movie “Roxanne,” C.D. Bales (Martin’s character) mentions waxing “rhapsodic.”

Wax on. Wax off.

… the waxer.

I wane eloquent sometimes.