HOPEFULLY II.

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.

Comments

  1. j. del col says:

    Just as no one ever went broke overestimating the need for self-styled linguistic rebels to flog dead horses.

  2. You see any self-styled linguistic rebels here? I don’t see any anywhere. I don’t see any dead horses, either–as GP’s article indicates, the AP Style Guide may have just surrendered to reality, but there are plenty of people still soldiering on.
    One thing that I seldom see in discussions of the word is that it’s an anomaly among sentence adverbs. ‘Clearly’ means ‘it is clear that’, ‘possibly’ means ‘it is possible that’, but ‘hopefully’ does not mean ‘it is hopeful that’. The only other example that I can think of is ‘happily’. Was this the reason for Follett’s ur-condemnation?

  3. Ideally we can come up with some more examples.

  4. My grandfather thought the matter could be traced back to immigrant German speakers’ picking up English as a second language and confusing hoffentlich with (adverbial) hoffnungsvoll.
    His solution to retain and distinguish the (now) old timey hopefully was introduce “hopedly” into the language.
    It had about as much success as my attempts to re-introduce “Solid Jackson!” Another one for the horse graveyard.

  5. @Treesong: I agree with you. Wikipedia mentions “mercifully”, “gratefully”, and “thankfully” as being similar, as well as “regretfully”. It’s wrong about “mercifully”, which really does mean “it is merciful that”; and personally I find “gratefully” and “regretfully” to be pretty bad. That leaves “thankfully”, which I think is fine, but objectors to “hopefully” do often object to “thankfully” at the same time.
    (“Happily”, by the way, is somewhat debatable, because although we don’t say “it is happy that”, we do use “happy” in other objective ways, e.g. “a happy coincidence”, “a happy meeting”, “a happy chance”.)

  6. What’s also interesting is the Monica Hesse reaction: Geoff called out her “overheated” reaction and notes that she e-mailed back that she was just being sarcastic. Reminds me of a common prescriptivist reaction identified by Jonathon Owen in Arrant Pedantry: http://www.arrantpedantry.com/2011/08/07/its-just-a-joke-but-no-seriously/

  7. By the way, am I the only one who thinks that Monica Hesse’s piece is genuinely funny? And c’mon, how do you read
    > 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.
    and think that she’s seriously defending the prohibition against “hopefully”? Last I checked, “self-righteousness” is usually considered a bad thing.

  8. Tom Recht says:

    I must confess to an idiotic prejudice against the un-English and eccentric back-formation “lambast”. I’m curious, Hat, do you pronounce it [læmˈbeɪst] or [læmˈbæst]?

  9. The latter, which is why I spell it that way. If I said [læmˈbeɪst] I would spell it with the final -e.

  10. I write it lambaste and pronounce it accordingly. The OED treats lambast and lambaste as spelling variant, and attributes the former to the 18th century. m-w.com agrees.
    Etymonline says “1630s, from lam (1590s, ultimately from a Scandinavian source, cf. O.N. lemja ‘to beat, to lame’) + baste ‘to thrash’”. So: to beat until lame, first literally, then (1886) figuratively. Wherefore, therefore, the accusations of un-Englishry, idiocy, and back-formation?

  11. Tom Recht says:

    The accusations of un-Englishry and idiocy (the latter self-directed) were taken over ironically from Hat’s post, and weren’t to be taken seriously. But I do think lambast [læmˈbæst] must be a modern back-formation from the written form lambasted. At least, the OED only recognizes the (etymologically expected) pronunciation [læmˈbeɪst], and it confines the variant spelling lambast to the orthographically fickle 18C.

  12. 2:52 PM: its-just-a-joke-but-no-seriously/
    10:59 PM: …weren’t to be taken seriously. But I do think…
    (Apologies to Tom, but etc.)

  13. @Ran: Thanks for the pointer to other fulsome sentence adverbials. Thinking about ‘regretfully’ gives me some idea of how the unhopeful peevers feel. Use ‘regrettably’, dammit! And ‘hopably’!
    Likewise ‘gratefully’, but there I see no neat alternative for depersonalizing the emotion. It’s exactly parallel to ‘thankfully’ but its novelty hasn’t worn off for me.

  14. Yeah, as I always say, there’s nothing wrong with feeling uncomfortable with new usages; the important thing is to keep firmly in mind that the discomfort is because they’re new, not because they’re wrong.

  15. I don’t believe I have run into “gratefully” used this way. Is it really a New use of the adverb?
    But I have run into a corresponding Old use of the adjective, in those historical novels by Patrick O’Brian that Hat tells about from time to time. A grateful breeze, or a grateful glass of wine.

  16. Edgar Allen Poe tried to introduce the word suspectful to discriminate between the two senses of suspicious: one who suspects and one who is suspected. But it didn’t catch on.

  17. I just came across David Foster Wallace’s old essay “Tense Present” for the first time today. This idiotic screed, combined with some of the stuff I’ve heard this week from prescriptivists about ‘hopefully’, has put me in such a rage that I honestly don’t know what to do to calm myself down. Help me, LanguageHat! What do I do?

  18. Help me, LanguageHat! What do I do?
    You see, this is what happens. I just realised that I’m not crazy about the term descriptivist. I mean, who wants their outlook to be defined by prescriptivism? I think existentialist would be a better term. I’m changing a paragraph at Wikipedia accordingly:

    Some scholars argue that the term should be used only to refer to the cultural movement in Europe in the 1940s and 1950s associated with the works of the philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Albert Camus.[3] Other scholars extend the term to Kierkegaard, and yet others extend it as far back as Socrates.[21] Nowadays the term is often identified with the linguistic views expressed by Languagehat.[3]

  19. I just came across David Foster Wallace’s old essay “Tense Present” for the first time today. This idiotic screed, combined with some of the stuff I’ve heard this week from prescriptivists about ‘hopefully’, has put me in such a rage that I honestly don’t know what to do to calm myself down. Help me, LanguageHat! What do I do?
    Ah, music to my ears! I don’t know if I can calm you down, but I can assure you that you have company.

  20. I just realised that I’m not crazy about the term descriptivist. I mean, who wants their outlook to be defined by prescriptivism?
    Hear hear, Crown.
    I’m changing a paragraph at Wikipedia accordingly
    Oh, dear. I’m afraid you’ll get in trouble.

  21. ‘Thank you kindly.’ Is this self-praise?

  22. Is it possible that “thank you kindly” is a fixed phrase reflecting an older sense of “kindly”?

  23. I just came across David Foster Wallace’s old essay “Tense Present” for the first time today. This idiotic screed, combined with some of the stuff I’ve heard this week from prescriptivists about ‘hopefully’, has put me in such a rage that I honestly don’t know what to do to calm myself down. Help me, LanguageHat! What do I do?
    Calm down? No, take the opposite route. Read the introductions to Bryan Garner’s Modern American Usage; then if you can track down an essay by Mark Halpern in The Atlantic called “The War that Never Ends”… hold up, I just did it for you. Read it all — you’ll turn into the Hulk.
    Here’s also an LL post discussing Halpren’s article in which Marie Lucie and I played a part in the comments and a follow up, in which the Loggers were kind enough to let Halpern distort his critics’ arguments as a guest host, before running away when he was called out for those distortions in the comments.
    If you really do want to calm down, however, and you don’t have any Zanax (sic for the reason of “questionable content”}, you can then take solace in the knowledge that you’ve now read the most sophisticated prescriptivist arguments out there. Yes, that’s really the best they’ve got: a preposterous analogy, which I’ve torn to shreds in an LH thread I’ll try to track down later, between language change and an earthquake — really — and some fantastically lame handwaving about “the constellation of literary-philosophical-social-moral issues that we are talking about when we discuss usage.” Leaves a bad taste, just quoting it.

  24. To write Xa­nax in a LH posting, hyphenate it thus: Xa­nax.
    Rereading all that old Halpern stuff, it dawned on me what I never saw clearly before, that prescriptivists are hanging on the horns of the following dilemma: Either they put forth their claims on no grounds whatsoever save “I am sir Oracle, and when I ope my lips, let no dog bark”, or else they claim that distinguishing between (some senses of) infer and imply contributes to understanding. But the minute they forswear the former and accept the latter, they are committing themselves to being evaluated by evidence. Is there any evidence that failing to observe this or many another distinction makes for confusion, or that observing it lessens confusion? I suspect there is not, and in any case, the burden of persuasion is with the one who wishes to change the status quo (how conservative of me!)

  25. Of course imply and infer could share meanings and probably take on one or two more besides before much confusion would result, but most of the beauty in language comes from using words with a very specific meaning in the ‘proper’ way. Consider your ‘nolitessituriesco.’ If it came to mean simply ‘walk,’ would it have the same appeal? We’d still be fully capable of expressing the idea, but if someone wished to protect the word from the natural process of language change, perhaps relying on flimsy arguments, would that be so bad?
    Halpren seems like a real asshole, BTW. But I really like D.F.Dub., and when I last read his essay about a year ago I thought it was at least an honest and affecting portrayal of the prescriptivist instinct. If no one wants to have this discussion again, I will gladly shut it.

  26. jamessal says:

    but most of the beauty in language comes from using words with a very specific meaning in the ‘proper’ way.
    Most? How about “some”?
    If it came to mean simply ‘walk,’ would it have the same appeal? We’d still be fully capable of expressing the idea, but if someone wished to protect the word from the natural process of language change, perhaps relying on flimsy arguments, would that be so bad?
    They could try to protect it relying on strong arguments, like the one you just gave, and it wouldn’t be bad at all; but prescriptivism comprises things far more pernicious than mere opinions about language.
    when I last read his essay about a year ago I thought it was at least an honest and affecting portrayal of the prescriptivist instinct.
    I suggest you read it again, perhaps more carefully; then read Hat’s post in response. The essay is more underhanded than you remember.

  27. jamessal says:

    Either they put forth their claims on no grounds whatsoever save “I am sir Oracle, and when I ope my lips, let no dog bark”, or else they claim that distinguishing between (some senses of) infer and imply contributes to understanding. But the minute they forswear the former and accept the latter, they are committing themselves to being evaluated by evidence.
    Exactly. That’s why they’re so desperate to muddy the water with irrelevant stuff like hippy-style teaching methods and such. Then somewhere in between five or six irrelevancies you get an assertion of something you were sure you just beat to death.
    To write Xa­nax in a LH posting, hyphenate it thus: Xa­nax.
    Duly noted.

  28. jamessal says:

    Just as no one ever went broke overestimating the need for self-styled linguistic rebels to flog dead horses.
    Believe me, once that horse actually dies, all us cool kids will leave it alone.

  29. jamessal says:

    To write Xa­nax in a LH posting, hyphenate it thus: Xa­nax.
    Duly noted.
    Thank you, is what I should have said, and am saying now. I thought you were joking, until I noticed the word came through without all the silly symbols.

  30. marie-lucie says:

    jamessal: an LL post discussing Halpren’s article in which Marie Lucie and I played a part in the comments
    I had forgotten about those comments, but I just reread them and even though you and I came at the topic from different backgrounds, I think both of us did a pretty good job, if I may say so! We argued back and forth with other people, not against each other.

  31. marie-lucie says:

    but most of the beauty in language comes from using words with a very specific meaning in the ‘proper’ way.
    Words which have very specific meanings tend to belong to very specific contexts, such as science, sports, music, etc where very specific technical words are needed. In general, technical writing is not much concerned with “beauty”. Where we see “beauty” in language is not in such contexts, but more commonly in literary works, especially poetry, and in that context words with specific meanings are often used metaphorically, not literally. The judicious and innovative use of metaphor or simile in that context is often highly praised. But metaphorical use is not limited to conscious, polished literary productions, it also pervades everyday language also (see for example the work of George Lakoff, among linguists). Metaphor also creeps into technical language, for example “bug” and “mouse” in the computer field (and no doubt many others that I am not advanced enough in the field to know).

  32. Indeed, intensely metaphorical language is the mark of computer-science jargon (as opposed to, say, sailors’ jargon, which mostly uses specialized words not found outside the jargon). We ‘open’ ‘files’ which are in ‘folders’, we ‘read’ and ‘write’ them, and then we ‘close’ them, for example.
    I owe this observation to Primo Levi.

  33. But conscious metaphors are pretty rare in everything but poetry. When I appreciate a piece of writing, it’s usually because the words are especially precise. Word choice is also more important, I think, then syntax, but that is a personal opinion.
    By specific, I didn’t necessarily mean technical vocabulary, but just the most appropriate word carefully selected from among its close synonyms based on a knowledge of its history of use as complete as possible.
    I’m almost too tired to think straight, but I’ll just thank you for introducing me to George Lakoff, because his work seems like it should be really really interesting.

  34. I just reread them and even though you and I came at the topic from different backgrounds, I think both of us did a pretty good job, if I may say so!
    Yes, ML, even though we did approach the topic differently — as we might still do today, though not as differently (I’ve learned a good deal from you and your inexhaustible patience over the years) — it was nice back then having a heavyweight in my corner.

  35. thank you for introducing me to George Lakoff… his work seems like it should be really really interesting.
    I’d start with Metaphors We Live By; it’s accessible. I had trouble sticking with Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things.

  36. jamessal says:

    When I appreciate a piece of writing, it’s usually because the words are especially precise. Word choice is also more important, I think, then syntax, but that is a personal opinion.
    Obviously you’re entitled to your opinions, but I still thought I’d share a couple passages I highlighted for praise recently whose genius doesn’t have much to do with the sort of precision you described so well.

    There is a Degas painting of a woman with a bowl of chrysanthemums that had come to represent to Farragut the great serenity of “mother.” The world kept urging him to match his own mother, a famous arsonist, snob, gas pumper and wing shot, against the image of the stranger with her autumnal and bitter-smelling flowers. Why had the universe encouraged this gap? Why had he been encouraged to cultivate so broad a border of sorrow? He had not been plucked off some star by a stork, so why should he and everybody else behave as if this were the case?
    Falconer by John Cheever
    This time I know where I am going, it is no longer the ancient night, the recent night. Now it is a game, I am going to play. I never knew how to play, till now. I longed to, but I knew it was impossible. And yet I often tried. I turned on all the lights, I took a good look all round, I began to play with what I saw. People and things ask nothing better than to play, certain animals too. All went well at first, they all came to me, pleased that someone should want to play with them. If I said, Now I need a hunchback, immediately one came running, proud as punch of his fine hunch that was going to perform. It did not occur to him that I might have to ask him to undress. But it was not long before I found myself alone, in the dark.
    Malone Dies by Samuel Beckett

  37. Excellent samples; note that the glorious phrase “a famous arsonist, snob, gas pumper and wing shot” doesn’t achieve its success from especially precise words but from rhythm, surprise, and that je ne sais quoi that good writers put in at no added cost.

  38. I love John Cheever but I’ve never known flowers to be bitter-smelling – at least, not literally.

  39. marie-lucie says:

    AJP, it depends which flowers. In France many people grow geraniums on their window-sills or balconies. Geraniums are hardy and bright-coloured, but at close range they smell rather sour.
    I don’t remember the smell of chrysanthemums, but if the flowers in the picture are starting to wilt, they would smell bitter (if that is the right word for a smell).
    Since the picture is by Degas, a French painter, there might be a hidden meaning: chrysanthemums are autumn flowers, and in France they are associated with la Toussaint (All Saints’ Day), which occurs just before le Jour des Morts (the Day of the Dead, that is, Halloween). Traditionally the supposedly joyous All Saints’ Day is totally overwhelmed by the aura of the Day of the Dead, a statutory holiday when all over the country people go (or used to go) visit their family tombs and decorate them with flowers, traditionally chrysanthemums in pots. So chrysanthemums carry a connotation of death, dying, and the fragility of life. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Degas’ picture (which I don’t know) has chrysanthemums in it.

  40. Of course imply and infer could share meanings and probably take on one or two more besides before much confusion would result, but most of the beauty in language comes from using words with a very specific meaning in the ‘proper’ way.
    At this point you’re supposed to invoke Mark Twain and the lightning-bug.
    I doubt that even 1% of spoken communication is concerned with ‘beauty’. Probably very little written communication, for that matter. That’s not what language is for; beauty is a nice byproduct, not the ground of grammar.
    If you looked up the 500 most common words in English I doubt that 10 would have a meaning, let alone a very specific meaning.
    If I say ‘This post infers that you are a prescriptivist’, I am using a very specific meaning of ‘infer’, ‘to indicate by inference’. And if you don’t think it’s a ‘proper’ meaning, well, that’s your opinion, but you don’t get to make the rules, all of Anglophonia does. I don’t like it myself, and I wouldn’t use it, but I don’t get het up about it and I would object to a user only under very restricted circumstances, like editing a document or teaching.

  41. Treesong: Indeed, that is the “[Thomas] More 1533″ meaning of infer, whereby evidence infers a conclusion. As its name suggests, that meaning has been in the language for almost five centuries, being about as old as the words imply and infer themselves. It’s the “personal infer” sense, where the subject is a person rather than evidence, that is relatively modern (1860) and that has been objected to. See this Language Log post for a full explanation.

  42. Treesong, most language is just about communicating, but the language we remember and value is deployed consciously to achieve a certain effect.
    If you used ‘infer’ to mean imply in the dialogue of a historical novel, or as an inside joke with certain friends, it would be a proper use. But in modern English, using it that way without purpose would be distracting and strike the people with the most knowledge of English as a personal slip-up. And if it’s used willy-nilly in both senses by the same speech community, it loses some specificity and I would say some beauty.
    Common words may be worn by use into almost meaningless tokens, which is why very common words on their own are rarely celebrated for their beauty. When delicate, less common words are misused by someone who has to guess at their general meaning, they may be likewise blunted.
    About the Cheever piece, you’re right, I wouldn’t describe it as precise exactly, but ‘famous ___,’ ‘wing shot,’ ‘gas pumper’ and ‘snob’ all belong to a specific register of speech, and call up a certain attitude towards life and social milieu much better than any of the near-synonyms a less talented writer might use, especially in combination, so anyone who used them together without intending to elicit a similar feeling would be guilty of a lack of precision

  43. *trots over to the kitchen windowsill and smells geraniums*
    You’re right, a bit sour is how they smell. It’s not unpleasant, and up to now I’d never thought of geraniums smelling that way. It’s not bitter, though. As for chrysanthemums, don’t they symbolise death to the Japanese too? Perhaps I made that up.
    Edgar Degas was one of the greatest in a century of great French painters, from Courbet & Ingres to Monet and Matisse. He was a great draughtsman and innovator, I think possibly the first painter to be interested in and to work from photographs (photography having been invented partly in France and partly in Britain in the 1830s, if I remember right). Anyway, you ought to take a look, if only at his paintings and sculptures of ballet dancers.

  44. jamessal says:

    About the Cheever piece, you’re right, I wouldn’t describe it as precise exactly, but ‘famous ___,’ ‘wing shot,’ ‘gas pumper’ and ‘snob’ all belong to a specific register of speech, and call up a certain attitude towards life and social milieu much better than any of the near-synonyms a less talented writer might use, especially in combination, so anyone who used them together without intending to elicit a similar feeling would be guilty of a lack of precision
    Now you’re just stretching the definition to fit your argument. Initially, I knew exactly what you were talking about; the Ian McEwan of Atonement, for instance, is a great example of an author using with words with beautiful precision. The samples I provided, on the other hand, are simply of a different sort of beauty. That is, you’re reaching.

  45. Trond Engen says:

    Joe R.: I think I see what you’re getting at with your praise for precision. It’s something I’m able to share. It has to do with evoking exactly the right feeling in the reader, by its full load of meanings, connotations and vague allusions to long forgotten song lyrics. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with language prescriptivism. Without constantly evolving multi-layered meanings it couldn’t have been done. Or rather, it would have been stone dead and technichal.

  46. Trond Engen says:

    I wrote that to demonstrate that it’s possible to be vague, dry and sloppy at the same time.

  47. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: Degas
    I did not mean that I did not know Degas, but that I did not know the painting. I have just spent more than an hour looking up Degas works on the internet. I knew some of the most famous paintings and sculptures, but not the “chrysanthemums” one. I have seen two copies showing the head and upper part of a woman next to an enormous bouquet in a vase, which may be the picture referred to. One caption said the flowers were chrysanthemums, but most of them did not look like chrysanthemums to me, so perhaps my interpretation was wrong.
    I find most of the translations of the pictures titles to be inaccurate. For instance, several of them say “woman” (or “women”) “ironing”. Except for one who seems to be in her home, most of these women are on the job, spending twelve-hour days ironing, starching and pressing. These pictures have particular significance to me since one of my great-grandmothers started this type of job as an eleven-year-old girl in her mother’s laundry business. A physically demanding job, also a dangerous one, at a time of no days off, no health care, etc.

  48. marie-lucie says:

    Trond to Joe R: … precision. … has to do with evoking exactly the right feeling in the reader, by its full load of meanings, connotations and vague allusions to long forgotten song lyrics. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with language prescriptivism.
    I totally agree. Prescriptivism comes into play when someone insists on “don’t ever end a sentence with a preposition” or “never start a sentence with ‘but’”, and the like. These are demonstrably artificial rules that have nothing to do with how the structure of the language is effectively used or with the appropriate choice of words to convey not just literal meaning but connotations,allusions, emotions, etc. But “appropriateness” is not always the same as “precision”.

  49. A search reveals that both D. H. Lawrence and John Steinbeck wrote about the bitter odor of chrysanthemums.

  50. Seeing Degas’s “Four Dancers” at the National in D.C. was one of the many highlights of our honeymoon — a big one, though. You just can’t get that onto a poster or into a book. George Bellows also impressed, though really you’d have to live down the street to take the whole place in. It was sensory overload within the first forty-five minutes.

  51. Jamessal, have you been to the Barnes Collection, in Philadelphia? If not, you ought to take a detour next time you drive there to pick up spoons.
    m-l, I’m sorry, I misread your first Degas remark. He’s said to have been not very nice. Very interesting about the laundresses, I wonder if he called them ‘women ironing’.
    I’m prepared to temporarily take back my assertion that flowers aren’t bitter-smelling, at least until I find some chrysanthemums to test. I’m used to foul-smelling plants – in this garden we had a large, very pretty yellow plant that smelt so dreadful I had to pull it up – it’s just the word ‘bitter’ I wonder about.

  52. jamessal says:

    Jamessal, have you been to the Barnes Collection, in Philadelphia? If not, you ought to take a detour next time you drive there to pick up spoons.
    No! Though Robin and I have talked about it. As you know, it’s been a stressful time; but you’re right — we should stop talking about and be about it.

  53. I don’t think it’s _true_ that the prejudice was invented by one man. In the comments to your previous post on Hopefully, Arnold Zwicky remarks that it was criticized in popular press already in 1965, whereas Follett’s book was posthumously published in 1966. It seems that Follett was the first to suggest, without evidence, that this use of “hopefully” was borrowed from German, but in Pullum’s hands this is mangled into the idea of him being the first of its critics.
    Unfortunately, with experience I’ve come to expect Pullum’s tirades to come fact-free, or even negative on the balance of factual correctness. This latest missive does not break the pattern. It’s pointedly silent on how long this use of “hopefully” has existed (apparently the first citation is from 1932, but then there’s a break until the 1950s, and it explodes in the early 1960s). Its claim that “a single additional use of a single adverb undergoes a tiny expansion in its uses” is a flat-out lie, given the huge explosion in the use of sentence-initial “hopefully” in the 1960s, which can be documented in various corpora. And among all the false claims he does not – invariably – waste an opportunity to plug the grammar he co-authored.
    Hell, I _like_ this use of “hopefully”. I just don’t think that rants that are light on facts and heavy on vitriol are doing its reputation any favors. And any claim Geoff Pullum makes on anything regarding English usage should, in my opinion, be automatically suspect.

  54. Its claim that “a single additional use of a single adverb undergoes a tiny expansion in its uses” is a flat-out lie, given the huge explosion in the use of sentence-initial “hopefully” in the 1960s, which can be documented in various corpora.
    Surely “a single additional use” means an additional type of use, namely the use as a sentence-modifying adverb.

  55. I think the assertion is that the expansion was not tiny.

  56. Thanks, Ø; that’s the assertion.

  57. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: Very interesting about the laundresses, I wonder if he called them ‘women ironing’.
    The French title for most of those paintings is Les repasseuses, translated in one case as “Ironers”. I have never run into the English word, but the French one unmistakably refers to ironing as a job, not just as one of the many household chores. I should add to my great-grandmother’s recollections that these workers were paid by the piece – so much for a handkerchief, a shirt, etc – not by the hour. A young, inexperienced apprentice, who started with handkerchiefs, earned nothing while she was learning the basics. Ironing a man’s shirt, with a starched collar and cuffs, or a woman’s lacy and pleated blouse, was paid relatively well, but demanded a high level of skill and experience as well as much more time spent on the garment.

  58. marie-lucie says:

    les repasseuses
    Of course the French word also refers unmistakably to females.

  59. m-l: Ironing a man’s shirt, with a starched collar and cuffs, or a woman’s lacy and pleated blouse, was paid relatively well
    I’ve occasionally ironed those pleated things for my daughter. They are very time-consuming, but it could be there’s a technique I don’t know about. I used to live next to a Chinese laundry in New York and they did my shirts very cheaply. I think nowadays they use body-shaped steam presses. After a while, the shirts were ruined.

  60. marie-lucie says:

    I am not familiar with the methods of Chinese laundries, but ruined shirts should not result from a method of pressing but more likely from the use of harsh detergents and/or bleach, which are “tough on dirt” but weaken the textile fibers. Current detergents and other fabric cleaners are much gentler.

  61. I live very close to two Chinese laundries, a cheap one, a middling one, and an expensive one. I mostly use the middling one, except when I need repairs, in which case I cross the street and go to the expensive one. (The middling one picks up and delivers, unlike either of the other two, a very nice feature for aching backs.)

  62. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

  63. Recently a student in my topology class spoke up and asked something like “Wait, why is that loop in the rectangle nullhomotopic?” I replied, immediately and with very strong emphasis, “Every loop in the rectangle is null homotopic!” Something about my delivery of the line caused me to stand there for a moment reflecting and then to say “I feel like I just said ‘Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!’”
    Which is a fairly lame excuse for quoting a Python line. I think I was a little drowsy with late-afternoon sun coming in the classroom window.
    AJP, why did you write that just now? It must be a response to something above, but I seem to have lost the thread.

  64. Our two weapons are fear and surprise. Fear and surprise and ruthless efficiency. Three. Our three weapons.
    It was because of John Cowan’s two posts immediately above mine (I see one’s gone now): “I live very close to two Chinese laundries, a cheap one, a middling one, and an expensive one”.
    You can see it at 0:50, here.
    Not lame at all. I bet it woke everyone up.

  65. And here I was thinking of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

  66. Alas, I understood Corona’s remark all too well.
    The first draft of my tale referred, of course, to only two Chinese laundries; you’ll note that the cheap one plays no part in my tale, although I did use to lug my laundry there before the middling one opened. When I remembered it and revised the story, I left the word two conspicuously in place from the original version.
    Besides, I suspect the proprietor of the cheap one of actually being Korean, based on the smell I once smole when I went there around lunch time.

  67. I always thought someone should write a treatise on folk-tales called Goldilocks and her Forebears.

  68. Her forebear, of course, was the “impudent bad old Woman” of Southey’s story, which is about three male bears. It’s possible to trace the story beyond Southey, who is known to have told it orally many years before writing it down, but not much beyond.

  69. Chrysanthemums do smell bitter, or sour — harsh, anyway, with a hint of rot. This scent is apt for their position as a classic flower of autumn. The great Degas picture in the Metropolitan Museum was long known as “Femme aux chrysanthemes” or an English equivalent, but by 1982 curator Everett Fahy had identified the flowers as primarily asters — like chrysanthemums, autumn-bloomers. (Click “References” — LH readers will love the trail of argument. “Norma Broude . . . interprets the past misidentification of the flowers as chrysanthemums, the imperial flower of Japan, as an acknowledgment of the Japanese influence on the composition.”)

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