I was hopefully wishing hopefully wouldn’t change

The information came like a bolt of lightning from friend, journalist and columnist Bob Rodriguez via e-mail.

David Peck

Even the Associated Press has given in.

Bob’s message would be enough to make Mom turn over in her grave. The word from Bob, in his typically concise manner, was thus:

“An updated entry has been added to AP Stylebook Online. Editor’s Note: The updated entry is hopefully.”

And here’s the Associated press listing Bob quoted:

Hopefully:

The traditional meaning is in a hopeful manner. Also acceptable is the modern usage: it’s hoped, we hope.

Correct: “You’re leaving soon?” she asked hopefully.

Correct: Hopefully, we’ll be home before dark.

My reaction: “Gaaaak!!!!!!”

The misuse of the word hopefully was my mother’s pet peeve. The word hopefully means, basically, “in a hopeful manner” as in, “Dorothy gazed hopefully at the restaurant door, wishing that her husband would arrive.”

It does not mean “I hope” as in “Hopefully the Rockies will win tonight.” What you mean to say is “I hope the Rockies will win tonight.” The previous sentence means that the Rockies will win with hope in their hearts. That may be true, but that’s not what the speaker meant.

Mom hated that word usage almost as much as the Methodist pastors who urged the congregation to “fellowship together” after the service. (Fellowship is not a verb.)

Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style,” a bible of word usage, put it this way:

“Hopefully. This once-useful adverb meaning ‘with hope’ has been distorted and is now widely used to mean ‘I hope’ or ‘it is to be hoped.’ Such use is not merely wrong, it is silly. To say ‘Hopefully I’ll leave on the noon plane’ is to talk nonsense. Do you mean you’ll leave on the noon plane in a hopeful frame of mind? Or do you mean you hope you’ll leave on the noon plane? Whichever you mean, you haven’t said it clearly. Although the word in its new, free-floating capacity may be pleasurable and even useful to many, it offends the ear of many others, who do not like to see words dulled or eroded, particularly when the erosion leads to ambiguity, softness, or nonsense.”

Wow. And I thought Mom was passionate about that word.

But alas, the times are a changin’. Almost everybody uses hopefully to mean “I hope” or “we hope” or “let us hope,” and a few years ago the dictionaries gave in. But the Associated Press Stylebook that journalists so loyally trust always held fast. My latest edition states emphatically, “Do not use it to mean it is hoped, let us hope or we hope.”

But now, apparently, the AP’s online stylebook has given in, as columnist Ed Kemmick also noted in Sunday’s Billings Gazette.

As a former colleague used to say, “Heavy sigh.”

Now certainly, words change over time as the populace adopts new rules for usage, but there will remain in the English-speaking world a few of us old sticklers for words like hopefully, not that we’re perfect by any means when it comes to word usage. (I got caught writing “pour over the material” instead of the proper “pore over the material” a few months ago.)

Word usage is the kind of thing we journalists bandy about while writing headlines and proofing pages on Wednesday afternoons. In another column I’ll tell you about our office discussion about whether a certain river in northwest Wyoming should be Clark’s Fork or Clarks Fork.

That one got lively.

But does anyone really care about this kind of thing? Hopefully…er, I mean, I hope so.

 

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