Stop the presses!
I’m sure the rest of you are still buzzing about the recent news from the AP, some of you because the word hopefully is now acceptable as a sentence modifier, and some of you because you are bees.
Wait, what? That wasn’t at the top of your news feeds? You don’t keep a scrapbook of grammar-related news (titled “Good Times, Off-Rhymes”)? You haven’t been furiously tweeting things like, “Hopefully now acceptable? #sodumb #smh #lmao #byob #rsvp ” and “HOPEFULLY i dont punch sum1 at the apa in da face” and “Hey mercifully you’re a great sentence modifier and i’mma let you finish but hopefully had one of the best music videos of all time #thatfellapartattheend”?
Apparently I need to back up.
Hey, did you know that until recently, hopefully was not acceptable as a sentence modifier? But now it is!
What was the big stink about “hopefully”? The basic problem was that it was a modifier that didn’t really modify anything. Let’s look at how this word is used in everyday speech, and then you might see why people have made such a big stink about it:
Hopefully, the show on Saturday will be great.
What is hopefully modifying (or describing) in this sentence? Is the show itself hopeful? Is it the sentence’s speaker who is hopeful? Is it the patrons of the show who are hopeful? It’s completely unclear.
Hopefully, he will leave soon.
The same issues arise here. This sentence would (according to the old rules) only be correct if the author meant to indicate that he would be leaving in a hopeful manner. However, the way that this construction is often used, it could also mean that the speaker hopes he will leave soon or that someone else hopes that he will leave soon.
The AP initially suggested that hopefully be replaced with “it is to be hoped.” Oh boy, AP. There’s no way you’re going to get anyone on your side. That’s like saying, “Hey, teenagers. We don’t think you should drink alcohol until you’re 21. But how about as a fun alternative, you churn this milk into butter and then wait for it to melt back into milk, and then drink that?” That’s like abstinence-only Sex Education saying, “Hey teenagers, the best way to not get pregnant is to abstain. But instead, why don’t you do crossword puzzles together through can-and-string telephones? It’s almost the same thing!”
So people kept saying hopefully, and the AP finally made the big announcement that they were succumbing to the tide of American usage like a bunch of weaklings. Hopefully is now allowed as a vague sentence modifier.
Of course, the AP could also have made an announcement that said, “Did you know that you weren’t allowed to say hopefully? Oh, you didn’t? Well, as you were.”
Overall, it’s a good thing the AP made that choice, because it’s always good to let the American Public dictate what is and is not correct. After all, we are the people who gave Tyra Banks two different television shows. We are the people who accept that children can be named things like Moxie Crimefighter and Fifi Trixiebell (both, God help me, real names). We let Kate Gosselin on TV with HER HAIR LIKE THAT and no one even responded to my posts on message boards about a possible lynching.
Yes, AP, you should bend to our whims. Because if there’s anything that a Croc-wearing, soul patch-sporting, deep-fried butter eating group of people has earned, it’s influence.