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Work of Art — AP Stylebook OKs ‘hopefully’

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By Art Trujillo

No, this is not a repeated column. It’s not a summer (or early fall) rerun; however, you might recall I’ve asked the question before and touched on the subject: When we suddenly become aware of word or combination of words, is its usage new, or did we just now become aware of it?

During political seasons, we overdose on “convoluted,” usually in the context of “The provisions of Obamacare are too frigging convoluted.” They mean, I surmise, “confusing,” but the meaning of convoluted comes closer to intricate, repetitious.

And the word “conflate,” to mix, blend, combine, usually arguments and issues, gets plenty of play by the fine folks in Washington, who brought us the Shutdown.

As a grammar purist, I can overlook conflate and convolute; I still struggle with the pass that the incorrect use of “hopefully” received into the once-pristine English language. The word’s been around forever, and it’s obviously one of those that make us wonder whether it suddenly emerged and we all began to use it.

“Hopefully” means simply, “in a hopeful manner” or “filled with hope.” But a few decades ago, it came to mean “I hope.” For example, each payday, I look at my Optic paycheck hopefully; that is, I hope the boss will decide to bump me up to minimum wage.

But butchers of the language will say, “Hopefully, I will get a raise.” Sorry, but “hopefully,” in this context, simply doesn’t cut it.

There’s a journalists’ bible called The Associated Press Stylebook, required reference in every newsroom. Otherwise reasonable, fair-minded newspeople lose all sense of humor, decorum and diplomacy when it comes to the AP Stylebook. The stylebook rules, and from that there must be no variation.

I might ask the boss, “Is it Mass or mass?” “Do we use an Oxford comma?”

Check the stylebook!

Is it lunacy that drove AP editors only recently to accept the weird use of “hopefully”? One press release from a member of the AP editorial board asserted, “Today, the AP Stylebook has set America on a course toward ruin.” It goes on, “Hopefully, you will appreciate this style update. . . . We now support the modern usage of hopefully; it’s hoped, we hope.”

Another writer labeled it as “a travesty. ‘Hopefully’ should mean only ‘in a hopeful manner,’ e.g., ‘I waited for the announcement hopefully.’”

A different press release put it this way: From now on, the AP Stylebook  a bible of usage for multitudes of writers, editors and other species of word nerds, will recognize the legitimacy of the adverb ‘hopefully’ as it is heard in everyday language, even if it makes a grammar stickler’s back teeth ache.”

The same writer added, “Undoubtedly, Miss Grundy cautioned you in the seventh grade that you must never write a sentence like this: Hopefully, the game will not be canceled. “Uh-uh,” Miss Grundy would say, “never use that pesky adverb in so lax a manner. Proper English,” she’d insist, “requires rendering the sentence like so: ‘He said, “hopefully that the game would not be canceled.”‘“

And a writer, Monica Hesse, weighed in: “The barbarians have done it, finally infiltrated a remaining bastion of order in a linguistic wasteland. The venerated AP Stylebook publicly affirmed, ‘We now support the modern usage of hopefully,’” the tweet said.

When I become passionate about a bit of usage, some people tell me to calm down, to adjust to modern times. I can accept that, but how far should that acceptance go? Will the word “pronunciation” ever sound correct after we hear it pronounced “pronounciation, as we do on radio? And will “gonna” and “gotta” ever be palatable, even though that’s how many people pronounce them?

In my communication, generally, I’m a bit more formal when writing.

Reluctantly, I will “go by the book” when “hopefully” appears as a speed bump in people’s prose. Hopefully, I will learn to adjust.

• • •

And on the subject of meaning . . . For years I’ve been fascinated by vast number of words that describe people’s fears. We know that hydrophobia is an irrational fear of water; acrophobia is a fear of heights, and claustrophobia is a fear of closed up spaces.

Some dictionaries contain lists of hundreds of phobic words. My favorite is triskaidekaphobia, which somehow embeds 10-and-3-equals-13 to represent the morbid fear of the number 13, or, in essence, superstition. Notice how many big-city elevators skip from floor 12 to 14.

In a very recent discussion with a journalism professor, who teaches at Northern Arizona University, he referred to me (politely) as a homophobe, apparently based on an opinion I expressed about same-sex marriages.

I wondered: If a phobe or phobic is someone who fears something, does that mean I fear gays and lesbians? I most certainly do not.

I looked up a more precise definition of a phobic person and discovered that such a person has a fear or strong dislike of whatever is specified. My Arizona friend said that he too had been under the impression that a homophobe feared gays and lesbians.

Neither of us had bothered to dig deeply enough into Merriam-Webster to learn the fuller definition. We both learned something — even at our advanced ages. Neither of us hates or fears, regardless.

• • •

Will literate people ever fail to wince after hearing a succession of the words “actually” and “literally”? My observation has been that many people pepper their speech with these words, without regard to their meanings.

Hmmm. I see a column on this topic in the making.

Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to art@rezio.net or atrujillo@lasvegasoptic.com.