AP, I thought we were friends. <Insert tear and muffled sob here.>
I learned this morning that the Associated Press–my go-to guide for all of my business writing–bent its rules to accept the modern usage of “hopefully.” Now, the word is not only a simple adverb as in, “I waited hopefully for his call.” It’s also okay for us to use “hopefully” as in, “Hopefully, it’s not a sign of things to come.”
Hopefully, I won’t puke!
I admit that I’m one of those staunch “prescriptivists” as defined in a recent Washington Post article further detailing the metamorphosis of language. For example, I still cringe when a newscaster uses “impact” as a verb. I always do my best to abide by the rules of “comprise” and “compose.” And, just a few weeks ago, I began my hunt for a different doctor, all because my current doctor said the non-word “irregardless” four times during my annual physical. Yep, I have my standards.
God help us, I feel like AP’s decision opens wormcans containing even greater grammatical horror. Pretty soon, it will be acceptable for us to say, “We was going to the bank…” and “Her and him went to the store…” And why? Simply because those in linguistic authority throw up their hands and surrender to a society that abuses its Tolerance Card and worships the color gray.
Yes, people talk “that way,” and good writing considers those idiosyncracies when developing believable characters and settings. But I protest our throwing away grammatical rules for popularity’s sake. Hopefully… I mean, cough, ahem… I hope we can stand our ground.
WRITING PROMPT 1: What really “irks” you? Write about it.
WRITING PROMPT 2: Make a list of things that make you feel hopeful.
6 thoughts on “I Protest “Hopefully””
Language is a tool that shifts and changes according to how people use it. It’s dynamic! Also, language is subservient to the communication needs of the people, and it shouldn’t be otherwise. It can’t become a universal rule of communicative etiquette, since enforcing that sort of thing is taking away freedom of (ugly) speech.
I agree with you, Joe, and always get a kick out the dictionary’s annual new-words lists and things like that. But I believe decisions like the one around “hopefully” only lead to less clarity in our communication with each other. For example, my husband used “anxious” the other day as in, “I’m anxious about softball.” I thought he meant he was worried and nervous, the traditional connotation of “anxious.” What he really meant was he was eager and excited–a feeling altogether different. Lots of people seem to exchange “eager” for “anxious”… and I’m anxiously waiting for the day it’s officially okay.
I was told once by a native German speaker that the language is ever-changing to match current usage. If you learned German 20 years ago, you’d have to re-learn it today. It’s a little extreme, but language does have to change. It’s a living thing. As it should be.
Thanks for your comment, Tracey. I also embrace the idea of change… but for the sake of clarity. I believe that mutual understanding is key to language, thus our abiding by some basic standards is important.
I agree with you, Barb, wholeheartedly about language change to be for clarity. I really like your blog. I am constantly amused by it and you make good points. Every time I see WriteAbility on my Email, I anxiously click on it. I, ah, mean enthusiastically.
Thanks so much, Stephanie. I hope your writing is going well!