Wednesday, December 11, 2019

All about the word "hopefully"

Hopefully . . .

Definition of hopefully (adverb) 
1.  : in a way that express desire with an expectation of fulfillment :
     in a hopeful manner  // gazed up at us hopefully

2.  : it is hoped : I hope : we hope // hopefully the rain will end soon

- Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Language is fluid.  It is ever-changing, and not always for the better.  The word "hopefully" is an adverb and it originally meant "in a hopeful manner" as in He looked at her hopefully.  In the 1960s, people began using "hopefully" to mean "I hope" or "we hope." If you watch a film from the 1950s or a television show from the early 1960s, you are unlikely to hear anyone say "Hopefully, it should be finished by next year."

It is strange that use of the word "hopefully" has evolved in this way.  Speakers usually prefer shorter  sentences.  "I hope" has  two syllables, while "hopefully" has three syllables.  Yet, English speakers have overwhelmingly chosen to say "Hopefully, the weather will be better tomorrow."rather than "I hope the weather will be better tomorrow."

In a 2012 article for National Public Radio, linguist Geoff Nunberg refers the AP Stylebook's acceptance of  "hopefully" as a floating sentence adverb.  He writes: "There was something anticlimatic to the news that the AP Stylebook will no longer be objecting to the use of "hopefully" as a floating sentence adverb, as in, 'Hopefully, the Giants will win the division.'  It was like seeing an obituary for someone who must have died around the time Hootenanny went off the air."

Nunberg points out that "I hope that" and "hopefully" do not have precisely the same meaning.  "I hope that" expresses a desire, while "hopefully" makes a hopeful prediction.  For example, you may say "I hope that my team wins the championship.for seven years in a row."  It may me be unlikely but you want it to happen.  If you say "Hopefully, my team will win the championship for the next seven years, you are suggesting that it may actually happen.  The nuances are important.

The change in the usage of "hopefully" has had its detractors.  The American poet Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978) once described the current usage of "hopefully" as an abomination.  She said its advocates should be lynched.  The American historian T. Harry Williams (1909-1979) railed against the change in the usage of "hopefully."  He called it "the most horrible usage of our times."

Although I am not thrilled about the current usage of "hopefully," I think that  McGinley and Williams were on the wrong side of history.  "Hopefully" as a floating sentence adverb has been accepted by the general populace and there is no turning back.  The writing has been on the wall for decades now. 

I recently saw the film Harriet, about the life of American abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who led hundreds of slaves to freedom via "The Underground Railroad."  I smiled to myself when the word "hopefully" was used to mean "I hope" in the dialogue of the movie .  After all, the film takes place in the 19th century, when no one would have spoken in that manner.

The current usage of the word "hopefully" is definitely here to stay.  I grudgingly accept the fact that it is not going away.   What annoys me is that it has become ubiquitous.  It has become a filler like "basically" and "literally."  The word is used so often that it seems to have been devalued.  I'm also dismayed that the original meaning of the word will eventually be lost forever.  If that makes me a language snob, so be it!  I have accepted the current usage of "hopefully," but I don't have to like it.  Yes, it bothers me, but it is not earth shattering.


"Hope" is the thing with feathers - 

"Hope" is the thing with feathers - 
That perches in the soul - 
And sings the tunes without words - 
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash that little Bird -
That kept so many warm -

I've heard it in the chilliest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity
It asked a crumb of me.

- Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), American poet

- Joanne

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

What are Kangaroo Words?

What are kangaroo words?  If you guessed that they are some form of Australian slang, you're absolutely wrong.  In fact, a kangaroo word is a word that contains the letters of another synonymous word in its correct sequence, the same way that baby kangaroos, known as joeys, are carried in their mother's pouch.  The second word is smaller, but it means the same thing as the first word.  It's a sort of mini-me.

For example, MASCULINE is a kangaroo word because it contains the word MALE, which is a synonym of the first word.  Similarly, the word ALONE contains its synonym, LONE.  It also contains a second synonym, ONE.

BLOSSOM is another kangaroo word because it contains the synonym BLOOM.


There are countless kangaroo words.  Here is a list of some of them.

ASTOUND contains the word STUN.

BELATED contains the word LATE.

CHICKEN contains the word HEN.

CONTAMINATE contains the word TAINT.

DECEASED  contains the word DEAD.

ENCOURAGE contains the word URGE.

ENJOYMENT contains the word JOY.

FEAST contains the word EAT.

GIGANTIC contains the word GIANT.

INHUMANE contains the word INHUMAN.

INSIGNIA contains the word SIGN.

MUNICIPALITY contains the word CITY.

PLUSH contains the word LUSH.

RESPITE contains the word REST.

SALVAGE contains the word SAVE.
VERACITY contains the word VERITY.

Quote of the Day

"Some birds are not meat to be caged., that's all.  Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild.  So you let them go, or when you open the cage to free them they somehow fly out past you.  And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their 

- Stephen King (1947- ), American author
From Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: A Story from Different Seasson

- Joanne

Monday, November 18, 2019

Don Cherry and the power of words

"Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me."

The above aphorism is often used in schoolyards as  a response to bullying.  One of the earliest uses of the phrase can be found in the Christian Recorder, an American periodical with a large Black readership.  Here is the citation from March, 1862: "Remember the old adage 'Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me'.  True courage consists in doing what is right, despite the jeers and sneers of our companions."

Since childhood, I have been reminded of those proverbial "sticks and stones."  Yet the old saying has grown shopworn in the 21st century.  It has become outdated in the Age of the Internet and social media.  Not only that, but it is patently false.  Words do hurt.  They may not hurt physically, but they hurt emotionally.  They harm the human psyche.  Words may not break bones, but they certainly break hearts.  Words wield immense power.  Bruises and bones can heal, but the sting of hurtful words can last a lifetime. That's the reason why there is so much verbal bullying.

All of this brings me to the recent controversy in Canada over hockey commentator Don Cherry's firing and his remarks on "Coach's Corner."  Many Canadians have a soft spot for Donald S. Cherry.  They admire him for speaking his mind.  It's also true that the 85-year-old Cherry donates a great deal of his time and money to charitable causes.  For this, he deserves credit.  For his hurtful words, he does not.  He deserves to be fired.  Here's what he said:

"You people . . . you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple of bucks for a poppy or something like that."

For years, Cherry has had a large audience and a great deal of influence.  The man is as flamboyant and outspoken as his loud suits.  Although I rarely agree with him, he is perfectly entitled to speak his mind.  However, there are limits to free speech and Cherry crossed the line.  He spoke words that are untrue and very hurtful to many people.  He spoke words that sparked resentment toward immigrants and new Canadians. He came close to saying, like another Donald, south of the border, that they should go back to where they came from.

If Don Cherry wants to praise veterans, that's his prerogative.  If he wants to lament the lack of poppies on lapels, that's also his prerogative, although I did not notice that to be true.  (I saw plenty of poppies here in Toronto, where I live).  Cherry and his fans don't seem to realize that free speech cannot be absolute.  Even in a democratic society, there are limits to free speech.  Cherry crossed the line.  He was fired because he went too far.  If only he had ended his rant with his complaint about not enough poppies being sold.  Unfortunately, he did not.

Don Cherry is disingenuous when he denies that he holds bigoted views.  He regards himself as a great patriot. (I also respect veterans, but I find "Grapes" to be too jingoistic)  The issue, however, is not poppies and veterans.  The issue is not whether Don Cherry holds jingoistic views..  The truth is that Mr. Cherry is xenophobic and that he has aimed his criticism directly at immigrants and non-whites.  His devotees know exactly what he meant when he used the ugly expression "you people."  Immigrants and non-WASPS also know exactly what he meant.  How could Cherry identify "you people" except for the colour of their skin or their religious symbols?  When he talked about "you people," he wan't referring to Norwegian immigrants or Scottish immigrants.

The fact is that many non-whites have served in the Canadian military with distinction.  They shouldn't have to be insulted on national television.  Why do people like Don Cherry assume that immigrants do not have a sense of loyalty to Canada?  Why do they assume that if someone does not look Anglo-Saxon or Celtic, that he or she is not a "real Canadian" or that they couldn't have been born in Canada?  Cherry's words hurt.  As someone of non-Anglo-Saxon or Celtic background, Cherry's comments hurt me.  I am the Canadian-born granddaughter of immigrants from Italy.  I describe my self as a Canadian of Italian descent.  Although I am fiercely proud of my Italian heritage, I have never lived in Italy.  I am not fluent in the Italian language and I am not an Italian citizen.  My skin is olive and I look southern European, but I am Canadian to the core.

Don Cherry suggested that immigrants come to this land of milk and hone and don't give back in return.  He accused them of not even shelling out some money for a poppy,  He questioned their loyalty to Canada.  He was dead wrong.  I wonder if he has any idea about how much immigrants have contributed to this nation.?  Can you imagine if all the immigrants in Canada stopped working for one day or one week?   Our country could not function.  Due to his popularity and his huge following, Cherry's egregious remarks have sewn more seeds of division in Canada.

Don Cherry is an anachronism.  The world has changed and Canada has changed, but Cherry has refused to adapt to those changes.  He can't accept a multicultural Canada.  He wants to live in the past where almost everyone was white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, women knew their place and boys were boys.

Cherry is a polarizing figure.  Those who like him really like him.  I have heard complaints that "You can't say anything anymore" and that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wore blackface years ago.  Here is my response: Free speech has limits.  It does not consist of hateful untruths. Don Cherry has had plenty of time to express his opinions.  He has had his say for decades on Hockey Night in Canada.  As for the PM, Justin Trudeau has been severely criticized for his lack of judgement and he apologized profusely. He has always been supportive of an inclusive Canada.

Don Cherry's time in the spotlight has come and gone.  He has a vision of a Canada that no longer exists except in small pockets in small towns.  He may have kept his job if he had apologized.  His apology wouldn't have been sincere, though, because he meant what he said.  Like that other Donald south of the border, he doesn't believe he did anything wrong.

- Joanne

Monday, November 11, 2019

Five Guidelines for Living

Number 16 presents five guidelines to help you cope with the vicissitudes and difficulties of life.  Keep in mind that there are many more and that these are just a small sample.


1.  Groundhog Day is just a movie.  There are no dress rehearsals in real life.  Sometimes we are given chances to do better, but we can never go back in time and completely erase our original mistakes.  What's done is done and we have to live with the past and move on.  Time is not a renewable resource.  That is why the wisest among us learn from the past, live in the present and prepare for the future.

2.  To err is human, but there are many things we can do about our most egregious mistakes and shortcomings.  We can acknowledge them, learn from them, apologize for them, atone for them and try not to repeat them.  What we can't do or shouldn't do is pretend that they didn't happen.

3.  Some mysteries are beyond human comprehension and human understanding. No one has an answer or an explanation for everything.

4.  Try to look at all sides of an issue, even opinions you disagree with.  That doesn't mean you have to change your mind.  It just means you should not be so rigid as to refuse to give other views a thought, even those which are immoral and reprehensible to you  It is worthwhile to ask yourself why some people hold such opinions.  You should continually examine your own beliefs and those of others.

5.  Try not to panic.  In times of crisis, we always fare better when we remain calm and in control.  Panicking never put out a fire.

- Joanne