What is a snobservation?

snobservation. noun. (origin: fictional)  1. An assertion about English grammar or usage delivered with such impassioned certitude that you’d never know it’s dead wrong. 2. Any unfounded grammar rule cited to evoke a feeling of undeserved superiority.

Snobservation #8
Posted by June on February 7, 2011

June: I noticed that you ended your column by using the adverb "hopefully" as a substitute for "I hope that" or "It is hoped that." I know you know better than to use substandard English. — Steve

Funny word "substandard." It lets you suggest something is wrong without actually saying so.  Of course, you can't say that "hopefully" as a sentence adverb is wrong because, well, it's not:

hopefully adverb: 1. in a hopeful manner, 2. it is to be hoped (that): 'to leave early, hopefully by noon.'

That was from Webster's New World College Dictionary. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage gives more background, saying that the sentence-modifying "hopefully" surged in popularity in the 1960s and the anti-hopefully position was a backlash. "What is newly popular will often be disparaged. ... Many commentators now accept the usage, but it seems safe to predict that there will be some who continue to revile it well into the next century. You can use it if you need it, or avoid it if you do not like it. There never was anything really wrong with it."

So I'll admit that my usage was "substandard" to whatever extent a guy named Steve in La Crescenta, California, sets our standards. But that doesn't say much.

Snobservation #35
Posted by admin on July 7, 2010

My biggest grammar peeve is using adjectives when you need an adverb (and vice versa). Example: "I feel badly" instead of "I feel bad." -- Tiffany

Sorry, Tiffany. Actually, “I feel bad” is the correct choice. Here’s why: Most of us were taught that adverbs modify verbs. But an alarmingly small proportion of us ever learned about copular or linking verbs, which can turn our basic understanding of adverbs on its head. So we have no choice to assume that "I feel badly" is the correct choice over "I feel bad."
Unfortunately, that just isn't so.
To understand the principle of copular or linking verbs, ask yourself: Why do you say "I am happy" instead of "I am happily"? It's because "happy" is really describing the subject "I" and not the action of the verb, right? That's a good place to begin understanding copular verbs, but it doesn't end there.
The most common copular verb is "to be." Many others also refer to states of being or to senses: "seem," "appear," "act," "become," "look," "remain," "get," "grow," "smell," "feel," "taste."
And the rule we've been accidentally yet so conveniently kept in the dark about is this: Copular verbs take adjectives as their complements. Not adverbs.

The dog appears hungry (not hungrily).
The suspect acts guilty (not guiltily).
The haggis smells bad (not badly).
John became angry (not angrily).
Of course, most copular verbs aren't exclusively copular. The word "appears" in the above example describes the dog, so it's copular and takes an adjective. But if you wanted to say that the dog "appears suddenly," it's not copular because you're describing an action -- appearing. Another example, "feel" is copular when describing a mental state, but when you're describing the action of touching and feeling, it's not copular. That's why "I feel badly" isn't always wrong.