Saturday, February 06, 2010

Today's Grammar Lesson

11 Little-Known Grammatical Errors That Will Shock and Horrify You -


Karin M said...

Love the examples. I think the hopefully battle is about over, at least in speech. I mean, fortunately is used more than "it is most fortunate that" and funnily more than "it is rather funny that." Never really thought about eager/anxious. Don't know if I make the mistake or automatically don't. Lay/lie mistakes annoy me, and they are very common. But I don't mind if Brer Rabbit, he lay low.

Unknown said...

Judy gets annoyed by the eager/anxious confusion when newscasters make the wrong choice.

Patrick Murtha said...

The supposedly incorrect use of "hopefully" is a canard that has been debunked by every informed grammarian of the past 50 years. "Hopefully" is usually used as a "sentence adverb," as helpfully described in the Wikipedia article on "disjuncts":

"In linguistics, a disjunct is a type of adverbial adjunct that expresses information that is not considered essential to the sentence it appears in, but which is considered to be the speaker's or writer's attitude towards, or descriptive statement of, the propositional content of the sentence. For instance: "Honestly, I didn't do it."(Meaning "I'm honest when I say I didn't do it" rather than *"I didn't do it in an honest way.")

A specific type of disjunct is the sentence adverb (or sentence adverbial), which modifies a sentence, or a clause within a sentence, to convey the mood, attitude or sentiments of the speaker, rather than an adverb modifying a verb, an adjective or another adverb within a sentence.

An example of a sentence adverb modifying a sentence is: "Unfortunately, when I got to the supermarket it had run out of the vegetable I like." An example of a sentence adverb modifying a clause within a sentence is: "I liked the red car in the forecourt, but unfortunately, when I got to the dealer it was already sold."

"Unfortunately" thus communicates the regret or disappointment the speaker experiences and so manifests as a sentence adverb the sentiments of the speaker.

"Unfortunately," however, is only one of many sentence adverbs that can modify a speaker's attitude. Others include "mercifully," "gratefully," "oddly," "admittedly," etc.

In the last forty years or so, a controversy has arisen over the proper usage of the adverb hopefully.Some grammarians began to object when they first encountered constructions like: "Hopefully, the sun will be shining tomorrow." Their complaint stems from the fact that the term "hopefully" dangles, and is intended to describe the speaker's state of mind, rather than the (grammatically more pure) manner in which the sun will shine.

One of the reasons the sentence adverb usage seems more acceptable these days is that its semantics are reminiscent of the German hoffentlich ("it is to be hoped that") which implies (in the context of the first example) that the speaker hopes the sun will shine. Furthermore, it is because of their conciseness, avoiding the need to put into several words what can be said in one, that the use of sentence adverbs is establishing itself more and more in colloquial speech.

Merriam-Webster gives a usage note on its entry for "hopefully" in which the editors point out that the disjunct sense of the word dates to the early 18th century and had been in fairly widespread use since at least the 1930s. Objection to this sense of the word, they state, only became widespread in the 1960s. The editors maintain that this usage is "entirely standard." "

Unknown said...

Thanks, Patrick. Great comment, and hopefully we'll all get the point.

Seepy Benton said...

Hopefully, many other people such as i.e. me are anxiously chomping at the bit to try and correct these heart-wrenching errors that many a lay low life could care less about as they collide with the barb wire brains of those of us who have got genuine grammatical goodness in our genuflections!