I must look baffled, because Camel lets loose with a toothless cackle. "Kid, don't tell me you didn't notice."
   "Notice what?" I ask.
  "Shit, boys," he hoots, looking around at the others. "He really don't know!"
  Grady and Bill smirk. Only Blackie is unamused. He scowls, pulling his hat farther down over his face.
   Camel turns toward me, clears his throat, and speaks slowly, savoring each word. "You didn't just jump a train, boy. You done jumped the Flying Squadron of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth."
   "The what?" I say.
   Camel laughs so hard he doubles over.
  "Ah, that's precious. Precious indeed," he says, sniffing and wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. "Ah, me. You done landed yer ass on a circus, boy."
   I blink at him.
   "That there's the big top," he says, lifting the kerosene lamp and waving a crooked finger at the great rolls of canvas. "One of the canvas wagons caught the runs wrong and busted up real good, so here it is. Might as well find a place to sleep. It's gonna be a few hours before we land. Just don't lie too close to the door, that's all. Sometimes we take them corners awful sharp."
(Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants)

Real good’ seems to intensify the degree of being busted up. But I don’t find the usage in dictionaries. Would you tell me what meaning does the phrase have?

2 Answers 2


This use of real good is not acceptable in Standard English. It's an informal, colloquial use of adjectives as though they're adverbs:

  real (adjective)  →  really (adverb)
  good (adjective)  →  well   (adverb)

Literally, it means really well. But the colloquial real good is used in a few situations where really well would not be, and this is one of them. It means "to a great extent, thoroughly":

One of the canvas wagons caught the runs wrong and was thoroughly broken.

I've glossed busted up here as "was broken".


”The phrase “real good” as used there means “a thorough job was done”. The canvas wagon (presumably an open or platform rail car) may have derailed or broken an axle at a low-quality junction between two runs of track. Damage to the rail car was so extensive, so thorough, that it couldn't be repaired.

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