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JAMA Revisited
December 5, 2017

“Hopefully . . .”

JAMA. 2017;318(21):2145. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.10497

Originally Published December 4, 1967 | JAMA. 1967;20210:982.

A new plague is creeping over the land. The disease will probably not affect vital statistics in the immediate future, and therefore public health officials and epidemiologists will ignore it. It does, however, produce acute anxiety among all who preserve a sensitivity to language. I refer to the grim misuse of “hopefully” in our current speech and even in our writing.

Like an infectious agent, attacking casual readers and listeners, the term burrows into the mind, festers there, and corrupts; then it unexpectedly breaks out in speech—and a new victim has succumbed, who may now transmit the disease to others. Thus the epidemic spreads.

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