In The H-word, I quoted MWDEU to the effect that the sentence-adverb use of hopefully "was [traditionally] available if writers needed it, but few writers did". I also quoted MWDEU quoting Copperud 1970 to the effect that the "rapid expansion of use of hopefully as a sentence-modifier" began "about 1960″, and I exhibited a Google Ngrams plot supporting this date. And I quoted Bryan Garner as saying, among other things, that "the battle is now over", and "Hopefully is now a part of AmE". I didn't quote the end of that sentence, which asserts that hopefully "has all but lost its traditional meaning".
This morning (Istanbul time), I thought I'd take a closer quantitative look at the history of hopefully, using evidence from Mark Davies' Corpus of Historical American English. The executive summary of my conclusions:
- MWDEU was right — going back at least to the 1880s, roughly one hopefully in a hundred was the evaluative type meaning "it is hoped" or "I/we/they hope" rather than the manner-adverbial type;
- Copperud was right — in the COHA sample from the 1940s, 2 of 182 instances of hopefully were evaluative adverbials rather than manner adverbials (1%); in the 1950s, the titre was 10 of 220 (4.5%); in the 1960s, it was 82 of 233 (35%).
- Garner was both right and wrong. By the 2000s, 76% of COHA's instances of hopefully are evaluative, many from esteemed writers in well-edited sources. So evaluative hopefully is certainly now part of American English. But the "traditional meaning" of hopefully, "in a hopeful manner", still accounts for 24% of instances, so it's misleading to say that this usage is "all but lost".
Some 1883 examples of evaluative hopefully:
Allan Pinkerton, The Burglar's Fate And The Detectives, 1883: These facts Manning gleaned in a conversation with the proprietor of the hotel, while he was making his preparations to commence his search for the man whose crime had led him such a long chase, and whose detection now seemed hopefully imminent.
Professor W. Le Conte Stevens, "University Education for Women", North American Review, January 1883: Despite the political transgressions of the present generation, there are some subjects left in which it is hopefully possible to improve on the results left by our forefathers.
Some examples from the 1950s:
Henry A. Curran, "Happy-Marriage Week", Good Housekeeping July 1950: To put happiness on the map, even on the front page, for a whole week out of the year can not fail to achieve some good. The happiness that flourishes, unnoticed, in countless happy homes may not be news, but happiness celebrated simultaneously by millions immediately makes headlines. The forgotten man and woman, rediscovered once a year! Alone they are negligible; en masse they are news. Hopefully, Happy-Marriage Week will be unlike any of the well-worn celebrations now in existence. It will be unique in that it will sell an idea — something that is already in existence.
Hubert H. Humphrey, "A New Approach to Disarmament", The New Republic 12/24/1956: Just as the cause of disarmament may be furthered by the appointment of a neutral Chairman so might it be furthered by the creation of an impartial and objective United Nations technical staff. The reports prepared — and they should deal with legal, scientific and military questions — should be as objective as' possible. A United Nations staff should be able to consider the problems of the various nations more impartially than the staff assigned to the member delegations. It would, hopefully, help to create mutual trust and confidence among the five powers. Finally, such a staff would to a limited extent gain experience to function as an international secretariat soon after a disarmament agreement was reached.
It's worth noting that the authors using evaluative hopefully in the 1950s and 1960s were hardly all undereducated boors publishing in provincial tabloids:
John Kenneth Galbraith, "The Poverty of Nations", The Atlantic Monthly Oct. 1962: It is upon these assumptions, many of them self-contradictory and all of them of limited applicability, that we have based remedial action. One consequence of our planning is that within the next few years men will reach the moon, and hopefully the righteous will return, but the most acute problem of this planet will remain unsolved.
Paul Goodman, "For a reactionary experiment in education", Harpers Nov 1962: Finally, one of the more perceptive proposals for college reform would help make the others more meaningful. Instead of throwing the new student hard up against a variety of choices and courses, it is proposed to make at least the freshman year an exploration? to help the young discover who they are and find ways to realize themselves. For example, at Harvard — largely, I think, through the efforts of Professor Riesman — freshmen can register in a seminar during their first year. This is a year-long bull-session, frequently provoked by visitors from the outside, which hopefully leads to concentration on fields of interest and specific reading and reports. Instead of the standard freshman " orientation " to the college world, it stimulates the students to question the college's purposes, strengths, and weaknesses as well as his [sic] own.
Morris West, The Shoes of the Fisherman 1963: But I do not always hear the harmony. I must wrestle with the cacophony and apparent discord of the score, knowing that I shall not hear the final grand resolution until the day I die and, hopefully, am united with God.
Susan Sontag, Death Kit, 1967: Diddy's telegram should be delivered to the Warren Institute in less than an hour. Who will read it to Hester? Hopefully, Mrs. Nayburn won't have returned yet. Then it would be the disagreeable Gertrude who brings the telegram to Hester's room. But if it should be the crass meddling aunt who recites his declaration, so what? Diddy has nothing to hide.
Thornton Wilder, Eighth Day, 1967: John Ashley was quite right in wishing to be under forty when his children were passing through their teens. His parents were both forty when he was ten — that is to say they were beginning to be resigned to the knowledge that life was disappointing and basically meaningless; they were busily clutching at its secondary compensations: the esteem and (hopefully) the envy of the community in so far as they can be purchased by money and acquired by circumspect behavior, by an unremitting air of perfect contentment, and by that tone of moral superiority that bores themselves and others but which is as important as wearing clothes.
John Kenneth Galbraith, Triumph, 1967: The AID, USIA, Treasury, the Bureau of the Budget, and Agriculture came together in Worth Campbell's office to discuss a package which, hopefully, would shore up and save the Martinez regime. At five o'clock word came that the President could meet with them that evening.
Given the fact that people like John Kenneth Galbraith, Susan Sontag, and Thornton Wilder were freely using evaluativehopefully half a century ago, it shouldn't be news that this is part of standard American English. And this history raises some questions for me about Bryan Garner's conclusion that
… though the controversy swirling around this word has subsided, it is now a skunked term. Avoid it in all senses if you're concerned with your credibility: if you use it in the traditional way, many readers will think it odd; if you use in the newish way, a few readers will tacitly tut-tut you.
I don't think that any sensible readers will "think it odd" if you write sentences like these, all from the past decade in COHA:
His brown eyes held hers and he smiled almost imperceptibly, hopefully.
Near the entrance, orange lantana sprouts hopefully from the hard-packed bare ground.
Several moments passed, during which Eliot waited hopefully for amplification.
She nodded disconsolately. "Maybe you could come along?" Her voice rose hopefully.
Then, Mandini looked at Lucas almost hopefully, as if willing to defer to an elder.
"Really?" The man's head bobbed hopefully.
Knot the yeti shuffled across the kitchen to stare hopefully at his fellow beasts.
One night in late May, when the cherry trees bloomed hopefully under the moon, she stuck her hips to his and just danced …
And if you give up a useful word because a few ignorant people will tut-tut you, the crazies win.