3/7/13

You Mean My Mom Was Literally Right This Whole Time?

Image [cc] Goldberg
As many of you who have read this blog in the past have come to realize… I am not one to let a few grammatical errors stop me from publishing a blog post. I have even come to expect the ad hoc editors out there to post comments correcting my mistakes, and virtually wagging your finger at me for my lack of proofreading. That's fine. I get it. Grammatical errors are like nails on a chalkboard to some people, and I've even had one specific error that I've harped on for years… only to have the rug pulled out from under me yesterday by a Slate article. After I read it, my life literally turned upside down.

Turns out that the word literally has a second meaning:
2. Used to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feelings.

For the past few decades, I've been wincing every time I've heard my Mom say things like:

… and when she found out how much it cost, it literally killed her.
… my head literally exploded when I heard the news.
… that literally blew her mind!!
 
Sorry Mom!! Although, now that I think about it, my Mom does tend to be a bit morbid in her use of the word literally.

Not only does this news make me a bad son, it also makes one of my favorite quotes from the TV show Psych, slightly less funny:
Juliet O'Hara: Detective Lassiter is literally on fire today.
Shawn Spencer: "Literally on fire" as in Michael Jackson in the Pepsi commercial, or as in a misuse of the word "literally?"
Let this be a warning for all you grammar police out there (many of whom I apparently see on social networks pointing out the proper place to put an apostrophe on major holidays.) Be very careful on pointing out the grammatical errors of others. It could literally come back to bite you!
 

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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

This denegrates the word "literally" to "very." I don't like it. I can't encourage this.

Anonymous said...

skipped fifth grade, eh?

Greg Lambert said...

Apple polisher…

Anonymous said...

Isn't that ironic?...

PS I blame Merriam-Webster and the "common use" idea. Any theory that states if I screw up enough times I'll eventually be right is, wait...

Anonymous said...

"That's fine. I get it. Grammatical errors are like nails on a chalkboard to some people."

Quite literally, this is the most humorous writing I have come across this week!

Brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Hey, if enough murders are commited, does that make murder become legal? People need to stop "literally" murdering the English language.

Patrick DiDomenico said...

I will use "literally" in this way as often (i.e., never) as I use "irregardless," which is in fact a word, according to MW: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irregardless

 

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