Robin Straaijer writes at Slate about the Hyper Usage Guide of English or HUGE database, based out of Leiden University, that includes “more than 75 usage guides and 123 usage problems in the English language, spanning a period of nearly 250 years.” He goes into some detail about the history of “hopefully” peevery (“It seems to have begun in Wilson Follett’s 1966 Modern American Usage“) and continues:
The HUGE database contains similar levels of detail for 122 other usage issues throughout the ages, including data: singular vs. plural; different to, from or than; they as a gender-neutral singular pronoun; and could of for could have. Although describing them all here would be a book in itself, more on these types of issues and how we made the database can be found at the project blog, Bridging the Unbridgeable: linguists, prescriptivists and the general public.
One of the general issues that we’ve noticed in creating HUGE is that newer usage guides tend to discuss a greater number of usage problems than older ones do. This suggests that more usage problems are “discovered” than disappear, either by being “forgotten” about or resolved. Furthermore, the database mainly contains usage problems relating to grammatical issues rather than word-choice or spelling. It seems then, that grammatical issues don’t easily “go out of fashion,” something that happens more easily with problems of word choice, spelling or pronunciation. The number of problems probably increases because writers of usage guides base themselves on existing guides and grammars, and add their pet peeves. What also plays a role is that usage guides continue to mention specific usage items, even if just to mention that they are no longer problematic—although if you have to explicitly mention that something is no longer an issue, it clearly still is.
It’s definitely a worthy project, and do check out that blog; still, I was put off right at the start when he talks about usage guides that “range from the venerable, like Henry Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, to the modern, like Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage.” While that is, of course, literally true, I bristle at the equation of the utterly reliable and descriptivist MWDEU with the others, which all fall under the rubric of “I’m going to tell you what’s right and wrong based on my personal authority.” The term “usage guide” covers both, but “medical book” covers both Galen and, say, Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine; I know which one I’d rather have my doctor consulting. I know I’m extra touchy on this subject, but I had to say it anyway.