May 25, 2009
Roy Blount Jr. has reviewed a book called Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language in the NYT Book Review (May 24, 2009). The authors tell us that it is hopeless to resist the evolution of the word ‘hopefully’ to mean ‘it is hoped’ or ‘I hope’. I think she is right but I continue to resist. I remember being at lunch at the Supreme Court in Washington DC with my parents and brothers the day after what might be called ‘a good dinner’. They were not familiar with the custom of serving iced tea at meals and this gave rise to a proper use of the word ‘hopefully’. Hopefully they looked at their iced tea only to be disappointed.
In spite of Churchill’s comment on the rule of grammar that would rule out ending a sentence with a preposition, (“That is a rule up with which I will not put”) I still prefer to avoid so doing. Another rule that I like is long gone in popular speech and grammar and in all kinds of official publications and that is rule against the split infinitive. I realize that the logic for the rule (there being no possibility of splitting the infinitive in Latin or its derivatives), and in spite of my love of Star Trek, the split infinitive is a realm into which I would rather not boldly go.
Finally (for now) I also prefer the pronunciation of ‘blessed’ as bless-ed rather than blest, especially in church. The version of the Psalter in the Book of Common Prayer depends on the longer pronunciation for purposed of scansion and rhythm. There is a reason it sounds better. Similarly ‘prophesy’ sounds better pronounced prophe-sigh to distinguish it from ‘prophecy’ or prophe-see. This too appears to be a losing battle based on the way 1 Corinthians 13 is read at many weddings.