Literally. Really?

If you’re a language type, or if you literally have any brain activity at all, surely you must have noticed that the word LITERALLY has of late had its dictionary meaning literally assaulted, abused, disrespected, ignored, misunderestimated, burned and pillaged. To make matters worse, the new usage we all are literally stuck with is literally outpacing the correct usage and if English were a democracy, well, the votes are literally in, and literally is now literally no more than an intensifier.

Just a couple of years ago, Cool Cats said it like this: “Try thinking very outside the box.”

Now it’s: “Try thinking literally outside the box.”

Actually, that’s not right. The phrase “outside the box” is now antiquated and not cool.

Now it would be: “Try thinking literally spot on.” But I’m still at least a few months from writing about how that British import “spot on” has infected the American vocabulary.

I digress. This is literally all about literally. Literally. Really.

The great thing about this new alternate meaning for literally is that you can literally throw it in almost anywhere. It used to literally mean really, actually. Now it’s ruined, a waste word. It’s lost its purity as a functioning member of the language family. You just can’t trust it anymore.

As a member of the language police, I’m outraged. You took one of my precious words and turned it inside out. By you, I don’t literally mean you, the person who’s reading this. The you I mean is all the idiots who copied the first idiot who began misusing this formerly perfectly good word.

Sadly, to use another trendy phrase, this new usage is literally too big to fail. Language is literally like a river, carving new channels all the time, a process we language lawmen have no control over and can only react to. Generally by literally kicking, screaming, crying, cursing, bitching and moaning, until that fateful day when you walk in the front door and hear yourself say, “Honey, I’m literally home.” That’s the day you know the language criminals have won. And you literally heave a big sigh and move on to the next outrage.

So this is my eulogy to literally. A few sentences to commemorate an old friend who has gone to the dark side. If we language marshals can’t literally keep the language in line, at least we know how to have some fun with it. What follows is me literally trying to salvage some kind of grim gallows humor from this annoyance.

Here are some uses for the new literally:

A WAR STORY

I was already angry, but when I stepped on the land mine, I literally exploded.

A CHILDREN’S STORY

I really don’t like stamps, said the envelope, but I’m literally stuck with it.

A TEARJERKER

When my hobo buddy died, I was literally bummed out.

A MEDICAL DRAMA

When the patient finally decided to have the surgery, he literally had a change of heart.

A CRIME DRAMA

After the cop squeezed out some toothpaste, he literally had a brush with the law.

A ROMANCE

Then my lips found hers. They were literally right under her nose all the time.

What’s yours? Come on, share it literally with everybody in the comment section

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3 responses to “Literally. Really?

  1. I literally get sick and tired of overused phrases. Sometimes, I think if I hear “outside the box” one more time, I’m going to literally put the speaker inside the box and push it over the bluff.

    Great post.

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