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November 10, 2017
Ok, the following is a true story, and you do not need to be a professional content creator to see how f’ing ridiculous it is.
I was sitting around watching one of those home improvement-type shows (can’t recall the name) with the wife one evening. That is pretty unusual in itself, but it did end up taking my dislike for the word “literally” to new heights.
So…we were watching the show, and a certain room in the house had been remodelled. Then, I believe the host of the show walked into the room, sat down, and proclaimed, “When I enter this room, I am literally transported back in time.”
Now, if that isn’t enough to make your head spin, I don’t know what is. You were f’ing literally transported back in time? Are you shitting me? You walked into the room, and a time machine physically took you back to another point in history. You were no longer in the present time??? Come on!
What You Really Mean
I’m not sure why this grammar / wording transgression bothers me so much, but it does so why fight it? If you are a frequent user of the word literally, and love to use it completely out of context, then you are of questionable character and low moral fiber.
Ok, that’s a stretch, but seriously man, you need to tighten that shit up. Literally is supposed to mean that the thing you are referring to happened exactly as you’ve described it. When you bang your knee and say “My leg literally broke in two,” you are not using the word as intended.
What you mean is that it “figuratively” broke in two. Or even it “metaphorically” broke in two. The leg is still intact, so your comment was figurative, not literal. If someone attacked you with a chainsaw and severed the lower part of your leg, then your leg literally broke in two. It is in two separate pieces, and there is nothing figurative about it.
It’s Not Just Misuse
Another issue I tend to have with this avalanche of “literally” is the frequency with which it is used. Even if it were being used correctly, hearing “I literally walked 2 miles to the store,” or “It literally took me 10 minutes to open that jar,” or even a two-for-one like, “It’s literally not even possible to drive when the streets are literally covered in snow,” is enough to drive you completely insane. Some would argue that’s not a particularly long trip for me, but still.
Even the Dictionary???
Unfortunately, my feelings about this word aren’t being shared by the supposed gatekeepers of words and their meanings. Even the dictionary is adding the “non-literal” version of literally to its offerings. Well-known names such as Merriam and Cambridge have followed in Google’s footsteps by including a meaning that goes something like “used to acknowledge that something isn’t literally true but is used for emphasis or to express a strong feeling.”
Are you friggin’ serious right now? I have a pet peeve about adding “right now” to the end of sentences, too. Could it just be me? That’s a debate for another day, but for now you can literally see the boundaries of good grammar taste blurring into obscurity, as we recreate the English language to suit our own needs.
If you have any similar pet peeves when it comes to writing or speaking the English language, I’d love to hear them. And if you’d like to order some world-class content, free from misuse of the word literally, feel free to book a Free Consultation today.
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