Feb 6, 2004, 8:15 AM
Post #8 of 8
This discussion took me back to the days of my childhood. The correct use of hopefully was something that my grandmother (que en paz descance) mentioned frequently. She was the Dean of Education at Oregon Normal School and went to great lengths to assure that my sister and I knew (and used) all the correct rules of English language usage. Her efforts served us well throughout our formal education but correct language usage seems to be something of an anachronism in this day of frequent changes in language based on a ready acceptance of common usage.
For example, the use of hopefully as a "sentence-modifying adverb," as in "Hopefully he'll arrive soon," is incorrect but widely-accepted English usage. What is actually meant in that sentence is "I hope that he'll arrive soon" or "It is to be hoped that he'll arrive soon." A correct adverbial use of hopefully would be "I was waiting hopefully for him to arrive."
It's interesting that the American Heritage Dictionary 3 says: "It might have been expected that the flurry of objections to hopefully would have subsided as the usage became more common. Instead, increased currency of the usage appears only to have made the critics more adamant against it."
Strangely, when hopefully is used as a sentence-modifying adverb and the sentence is translated into a foreign language (as in this thread), the foreign translation is usually grammatically correct. I suppose that's because the intent is pretty obvious, even when the English usage is not technically correct.
As a final note, AHD3 quotes William Safire as saying: "The word hopefully has become the litmus test to determine whether one is a language snob or a language slob." In a (perhaps doomed) attempt to end the discussion, the alt.usage.english FAC on the Internet comments that, "discussions about hopefully and thankfully go round and round forever without reaching a conclusion. We advise you to refrain."
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