I wrote about the idiotic prejudice against modal hopefully here, and now I get to link to Geoff Pullum’s ‘Hopefully’: Five Decades of Foolishness, in which he lays out the history of the prejudice. I had no idea it was invented by one man, Wilson Follett, who without any foundation in fact called the use “un-English and eccentric”; the interesting thing is that the peevers leaped hungrily on this new opportunity to lambast ordinary users of the language (E. B. White “altered his revision of William Strunk’s The Elements of Style by adding a paragraph of self-contradictory and absurdly overwritten rant about hopefully“). As Pullum says, the opposition peaked long ago, and frankly I thought it was moribund, but apparently not:
With truly extreme caution, the AP Style Guide nonetheless waited a decent further interval: Its editors let more than a quarter of a century go by before they finally risked accepting what had now been normal Standard English usage for a lifetime. On April 17, 2012, they announced correctly that the modal-adjunct use of hopefully not a grammatical error.
And people acted as if the sky was falling. “The barbarians have done it, finally infiltrated a remaining bastion of order in a linguistic wasteland,” wrote an overheated (and since then, overquoted) Monica Hesse in The Washington Post on April 18.
Well, no one ever went broke overestimating people’s need to feel superior to other people.
Update. The commenter edricson (at Taceo’s Journal, a Russian LJ blog) has found citations with modal hopefully from 1917 and 1918, striking antedates that hopefully the OED will take note of.