Saturday, July 4, 2009

In with 'hopefully' and out with 'it is a hope'

Here is an amusing review by Roy Blount about a few books on the use of English. The main point of the review is that the English language is changing and apparently not to everyone's liking, including perhaps his. English, I suspect, is evolving faster than any other language in the world because it has invaded just about every language niche imaginable.

Blount focuses on the question of whether or not the 'fuddy duddies' like me who remember that there was a difference between 'who' and 'whom' should enforce proper English rules or openly embrace the current trends in English.

Interestingly, when I looked up 'hopefully' online, I discovered that back in the 18th century, it was used the way we use it now (see Webster's definition). Sounds like a fashion trend....

Yesterday, in the teachers' room, some of us were reflecting on the wording of the Declaration of Independence (a reading of it was aired on National Public Radio in honor of July 4th), and one of them wondered what we would say today to a student who used an expression like 'a more perfect union.' Can something be 'more' perfect than perfect?

Language is - bottom-line - for communication. As long as our listeners or readers get a general meaning from our spoken or written "utterances", I guess we can feel assured that the words and phrasings we've used 'work.' Is there some grand book of acceptable usage in the Temple of English? Thankfully, no. So, writers and speakers around the world can hopefully continue to play and create with this captivating language.

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