Erik Larson

Feb 12, 2009

Hopefully, I'll Poke You in the Eye

Since I’m on the linguistic kick, consider:

“Hopefully, we’ll get this done, Mary”, said John, nervously eyeing the clock.

The word “hopefully” is an adverb, ladies and gents, which means it modifies a verb. So, in the sentence above, John told Mary that he’d get it done while being full of hope. He’d do it, with hope. But that’s not common parlance. Common parlance is to interpret John as saying that he hopes that he’ll get it done in the first place. Which is different. “I hope that we’ll get this done Mary” does not equal “I’ll get this done with hope, Mary”. (And why the hell would Mary care if he did it with hope? My guess is that she just wants it done.)

“Hopefully, he trudged the long way home, trying hard to quell that sinking feeling that no one would be there to greet him.” Correct. “Hopefully, he knocked on Martha’s door, flowers in hand.” Okay. The poor sap is full of hope. Up to you Martha.

Other adverbs, the little devils that modify our verbs: “We’ll get it mopped up quickly , ma’am, and sorry for the mess”, which means that you’ll do the mopping action and in fact quickly (and that you’re apologizing to the madam for the mess).

I hope that this is clear.