Pretty is a funny word. By funny I don’t mean ‘haha’ funny but ‘weird’ funny. Come to think of it, funny is a funny word too and thus it may appear in a future WOTD post. But pretty is a funny word because it has more than one rhetorical meaning.
It’s primarily defined as an adjective that describes something aesthetically pleasing in appearance.For example: Those flowers are pretty. See how the word pretty as an adjective clearly modifies the plural noun flowers.
However, today’s word has a secondary rhetorical function as an adverb, which has much the same meaning as the words: very, really, quite and other similar words.
(This is where the funny part comes in.)
Since the word pretty can be used as an adverbial modifier, this means that the phrasal adjective “pretty ugly” makes perfect rhetorical sense and it is not at all an oxymoron. Even though it definitely looks like one.
Today’s word is the first in a special WOTD series I’ve decided to call Objectionable Words. The word hopefully is an adverb formed from the adjective hopeful. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the word hopefully, at least nowadays. The dictionary informs us that while the word used to be objectionable to usage purists (and let us not deny that it still is), apparently these days it’s considered an acceptable sentence modifier.
But I just don’t like it, okay? It’s one of those words that debases the English language. It’s basically a lazy way of saying, “I’m hopeful that…” or “I hope…”
Hopefully the weather will clear up later on today.
I hope the weather clears up later on today.
More Boring Grammar Stuff
Hope is a noun; it’s an emotion, like happiness. It can be formed into an adverb by adding adjective-forming suffix “ful” and then the adverb-forming suffix “ly.” However, the noun-forming “ness” suffix does not allow the word happiness to be further formed into an adverb. This is one of the annoying inconsistencies with English grammar. “Happinessly” is not a word, although happily most certainly is.
More on that later…