This came to mind recently due to a series of commercials on TV and online where the commercial begins with someone saying something like, “Honestly, I’m a little old fashioned…”
My guess is that market research showed that people are more likely to watch the commercial and trust the actor if they begin the commercial with “honestly.” Well done, market research, for ensuring that a useless adverb stays in our lexicon.
I’m trying to think of what people really mean when they use that word. The closest I can think is, “You might be surprised that…” It’s a way of revealing information to people that might be contrary to what they think.
But “honestly” has its roots in the word “honest,” which is about trust and belief. It doesn’t need to precede any phrase. In fact, when something serious follows the word, I actually doubt the honesty of the statement a little bit because they went out of their way to assure me they’re telling the truth.
What do you think? I’m overreacting, aren’t I? So be it. Maybe it’s the annoying song at the end of those commercials.