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Marsha Mercer's op-ed column on AP Style: "Hopefully"
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WASHINGTON--The bad news came in a tweet. "Hopefully, you will appreciate this style update We now support modern usage of hopefully: it's hoped, we hope."
The message couldn't have upset the grammar police more had the Associated Press Stylebook instead said that it now finds starting a sentence with "me and him" or describing something as "very unique" acceptable.
My immediate reaction: You can have "we hope" when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.
Wrong is wrong, I grumped. "Hopefully" means "in a hopeful way," as in, "He hopefully began his audition." Not, we hope, as in, "Hopefully the Nats will win the World Series."
Is using "hopefully" wrong a modern phenomenon? Undeniably. So is hearing little children spout words that once would have earned a mouthful of soap. Hearing something frequently doesn't make it right.
I know, I know, far more important changes take place in society every day. But I'm a purist, if not a word prude--an English major. Like a Marine, once an English major, always an English major. Most people don't keep dictionaries in almost every room of their homes. Most people lead happy, productive lives misusing "hopefully" in the modern way.
The AP Stylebook calls itself the journalist's bible, and it's the law in matters
But "hopefully"? Stylebook editors tried to hold the line, reminding writers and editors in a 2009 tweet: "'Hopefully' means in a hopeful manner. Do not use it to mean it is hoped, let us hope or we hope."
That fine distinction vanished this week. Several major dictionaries have acknowledged the new usage, and the AP decided it was time.
My New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary--in the den on the first floor--says "hopefully" came into use in the 1600s, but the modern usage that "some find erroneous" popped up between 1900 and 1929. Aha, something else to blame on the 20th century.