The word “honestly”, followed by the word “child”, was used by my mother all through my childhood and adolescence as an expression of exasperated frustration. It was a derogatory remark that meant, “I can’t believe you just said/did that” and “you have disappointed me; inconvenienced me; caused me interruptions, etc… Other similar exclamations include “Oh, for crying out loud!” and “Good grief!” Note that she emphasized the first syllable with the strongest intonation, the second syllable slightly less, and the “ly” as a trailer. Punctuation would be a strong period:
HON – Est – ly .
I haven’t heard the word “honestly” used in that context for many years. Then, just the other day, I overheard my daughter’s friend telling stories and the word “honestly” punctuated every event in the stories’ sequences. The only difference was in the syllabic emphasis. My daughter’s friend spat out the word like this: hon-est-LY? You would have to punctuate her exclamation with a question mark as opposed to the period at the end of my mother’s usage.
The friend’s monologue sounded something like this:
So I go to the refrigerator and open the door, and hon-est-LY? Oh, my God, there is nothing in there! hon-est-LY?
… and she wanted ME to unload her car while she was on the phone with her boyfriend.
I can’t believe it’s going to, like RAIN tomorrow.
For a long time, I’ve associated the word “honestly” with its dictionary meaning: marked by or displaying integrity; upright; not deceptive or fraudulent; genuine; truthful; sincere; of good repute…” (American Heritage College Dictionary). But I kind of like this trendy use and have vowed to put it into my own daily story-telling:
My daughter posted on my facebook wall at 2am
with a list of things she wanted me to buy at the grocery store.
And yeah, I’m going to start eavesdropping around campus to see if I can hear it more to determine if it was just one young woman’s way of using speech, or if it is, in fact, a new trend.
Yes, HON – Est – ly . Child!