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On Language

It Is Hoped

April 24, 2012 | by

Linguists and grammarians the world over may weep into their Manuals of Style, but the march of progress continues: as of this week, the AP Stylebook has altered its definition of hopefully. As they tweeted, “We now support the modern usage of hopefully: It's hoped, we hope.”

(Previously, the accepted definition was, “In a hopeful manner.”)

As the AP deputy standards editor David Minthorn told the Washington Post somewhat mournfully, “We batted this around, as we do a lot of things, and it just seemed like a logical thing to change. We’re realists over at the AP. You just can’t fight it.”

Naturally, the decision has been controversial. While some have heralded the AP’s flexibility, others, like editor Rob Rheinalda, take a dimmer view, opining, “It’s lazy and it’s subjective. The speaker presumes that everyone shares that hope.” The WaPo piece had generated 680 comments as of this writing. Is Rome burning? Or is language simply in perpetual flux?

We are reminded here of the immortal words of Ken Kesey, who, in his Paris Review interview, remarked, “As you get older and hopefully wiser, you find that blame and punishment beget only more blame and punishment.” Amen.



  1. Lorin Stein | April 24, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Aaaargh, this is just like the Hunger Games! Sure, it may be expedient to change the rules, to allow two winners (or, in this cases, two meanings) instead of one. It may be “logical.” It may be the “nice” or “realistic” or “popular” thing to do. But I ask you, is it elegant? Is it attractive? Does it conduce to the dignity of the Games (or, in this case, the AP Stylebook)? It does not.

    Where does The Paris Review stand? For freedom of expression and the maintenance of standards. In other words, if our writers want to sound like a bunch of Merry Pranksters, that’s their lookout. But they’ll be WRONG, and so they shall be told!

  2. Joe Carlson | April 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Positioning my cursor on the screaming blonde, I learn that she’s one “scaredwoman.” Hopefully she’ll recover.

  3. Lioness | April 24, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    ^^^ Right, that’s because Merriam-Webster finally gave in to the demands of Tweeters (Twitterers?) the world over and added “scaredwoman” to their dictionary.

  4. Robert | April 25, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    Next step: the official recognition of “like” as “said, stated or felt” . Arrrgggghh!

  5. Vic Perry | April 28, 2012 at 1:01 am

    I don’t get the problem with hopefully and never have. Neither did Joseph M. Williams, late author of Style, which has gone to ten editions. Of the rule against hopefully he wrote: “this ‘rule’ dates from the twentieth century; it has no basis in logic or grammar.”

    Sentences such as:
    Obviously, something will have to be done.
    Clearly, the president doesn’t care.
    Seriously, you are an idiot.

    Work exactly like:
    Hopefully, the weather will be nice.

    There are no problems with clarity or usage in any of these sentences. But one of them spells arbitrary heartburn for grammar ninnies.

  6. Jane | April 3, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Hopefully all the tight-laced grammarians will find peace with this definition sooner than later.

  7. Ayesha Rao | June 9, 2014 at 3:05 am

    I think there is nothing right and wrong in today’s time, Language is diversity. However, as long as we could have variations in language. for instance there could be countless ways to saying/phrasing words.

  8. Mack Hall, HSG | September 6, 2014 at 9:23 am

    When Buna, Texas freezes over.

  9. Mack Hall, HSG | September 6, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Or as the AP might have it, when buntatexas overfreezes dude totally

  10. Tedd | July 9, 2015 at 1:17 am

    I agree with Lorin: Manuals of style should lead. Otherwise, in what sense are they defining a style? It may be fine for a dictionary to merely reflect common usage, but not for a manual of style.

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