15 JANUARY 1977, Page 17

Yours hopefully

Sir : Really, Alan Watkins (8 January) should stick to politics rather than writing patronisingly of those who know more about language than he seems to! 'Hopefully' (in its 'modern' or any other sense) does not belong to the same family as 'fortunately' or 'happily.' These last two and their like denote situations that exist objectively in fact; whereas 'hopefully,' in so far as it means anything unambiguous at all, which it seldom does, denotes a situation that only exists in a person's mind. 'Happily, Mr Wilson resigned' means that the situation created by Mr Wilson's resignation was, or at least could be claimed to be, a happy one. 'Hopefully, Mr Benn will resign' could have no other meaning than that the person making the statement hoped that Mr Benn would resign—not that Mr Benn's resignation was something hoped for by many people, still less by all. It would have been preferable and clearer to have said, 'I hope Mr Benn will resign.'

The increasing currency of 'hopefully' in a misleading or meaningless sense is rightly deplored and resisted by Phliip Howard etal. Its use should be confined to describing the subjective state of a person's mind as in 'We waited hopefully for news.' Mr Watkins is equally wrong, by the way, to couple 'thankfully' with 'luckily.' Luckily' means 'it was lucky'; 'thankfully' does not mean 'it was thankful.'

H. Justin Evans Glebe House, Church Stretton, Salop