On Tuesday morning, the venerated AP Stylebook publicly affirmed (via tweet, no less) what it had already told the American Copy Editors Society: It, too, had succumbed. “We now support the modern usage of hopefully,” the tweet said. “It is hoped, we hope.”
Previously, the only accepted meaning was: “In a hopeful manner.” As in, “ ‘Surely you are joking,’ the grammarian said hopefully.”
This is no joking matter.
You know these kinds of arguments.
You know them well. Linguistic battlefields are scattered with the wreckage left behind by Nauseated vs. Nauseous, by Healthy vs. Healthful, by the legions of people who perpetuated the union between “regardless” and “irrespective,” creating a Frankensteinian hybrid, “irregardless.”
These are the battles that are fought daily between Catholic school graduates, schooled in the dark arts of sentence diagramming and self-righteousness, and their exasperated prey. They are fought between prescriptivists, who believe that rules of language should be preserved at any cost, and descriptivists, who believe that word use should reflect how people actually talk.
“It was an unconscious mistake,” say the descriptivists.
“You mean subconscious.”
“Well, anyways — ”
“You mean anyway.”
“That begs the question. Why do you care about grammar so much?”
“No. It doesn’t! It doesn’t beg the question at all. It raises the question. It raises the question!”
“I’m going to beat you subconscious.”
Hopefully, you will bite me.