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Stop saying "literally"!

BronyNumber2

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Just stop! If you think you need to use it, you are probably wrong. The incorrect use of the word “literally” has become an epidemic. It keeps getting worse. I seem to hear it every day. I have started keeping track each time I hear it. It is 11:30 am and I have heard it 4 times today! I listen to a couple of radio programs, and I know one of the guys I listen to uses it a lot. I know that biases my sample, but I still hear it from others as well.

 

The site www.dictionary.com has 4 definitions. One of which is “actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy.” However, the 4th definition contradicts this and says “very nearly; virtually.” But a note does mention the controversial misuse of the word.

 

Basically, the word is meant only to indicate that what you have said is not to be taken as a metaphor or exaggeration. There are 2 ways in which the word is misused.

 

1: It is incorrect to say “literally” as part of what is actually meant to be a metaphor or exaggeration. Here are some misuses I have heard.

“My jaw literally hit the floor.” If that is so, you need to go to the hospital.

“I literally died laughing.” Really? You had a heart attack and died? I know it’s possible, so I have to believe it.

“The media is literally on the war path.” No, they are not literally picking up weapons and marching to a fight.

 

The whole point of exaggeration is to emphasize the magnitude of the situation. A metaphor is meant to help us understand something in a colorful way. Using “literally” as a modifier is not just unnecessary, it is also incorrect.

 

2: The use of “literally” to add emphasis when none is needed. Here are some real examples I have heard.

“You literally can’t not like the guy.” No, I’m sure it is possible that someone can not like him.

“I literally have no idea.” Oh, I’m glad you clarified that, because if you were to simply say “I have no idea” I wouldn't have believed you.

This use of the word might technically be correct, in the sense that the statement is true. But adding “literally” doesn't make it any more true. This is not the intended use of the word.

 

The word is meant to tell the listener or reader that the statement is to be taken at face value. It should be used only if there is a possibility that the listener might mistake what you have said to be an exaggeration. This does not mean, however, that you can merely use the word because you really want the person to believe you. The person will believe you, don’t worry. But if you do want to add emphasis, choose a correct word, such as “really” or “very.” Let’s work some examples.

 

“That was literally the first concert I ever went to.” This is a type 2 misuse. It might be true that it was your first concert, but using “literally” does not add anything. There is no reasonable expectation that I wouldn't believe you. Even if you wanted to add emphasis, a correct way might be: “That was really the first concert I ever went to.”

 

“The amusement park is literally in my back yard.” The person meant that the park was close to his house, not literally, actually on his property.

 

Let’s say a man is proposing to his fiancé. Maybe he tries to jump over a bench but he trips and falls. You might then legitimately say, “He literally fell head over heels in love. “

 

If you were attending a boring lecture or speech and you fell asleep, you could then say, “The speech literally put me to sleep.”

 

Simply try to avoid using the word. Do not use it to emphasize your point. When those rare instances when it is appropriate come up, you will know. If you aren't sure if it is appropriate then chances are that it is not.

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You're right. I literally hear the word a million times a day. I literally hit myself every time I read someone use it wrong. It literally makes me want to cry.

(oh, I'm just teasing. Though sometimes I do use literally in the wrong definition.)

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Literally! I also don't like the use of the word "Umm" in the beginning of people's sentences when their trying to be a smartass. 

(Jk, jk!) xD

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“My jaw literally hit the floor.”

“I literally died laughing.”

“The media is literally on the war path.”

Actually, based on one of the definitions from the latest revisions in the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, the use of "literally" IS considered correct here.

 

2:  in effect :  virtually <will literally turn the world upside down to combat cruelty or injustice — Norman Cousins>

Is it oxymoronic? You could say so. But here's the thing. The English language isn't pure, and "improper use" is nonsensical in a loose language like English. Like what another user said to you two weeks ago, it constantly evolves and incorporates other meanings. English is full of idioms, jargon, colloquialisms, slang, and other colorful stuff. Without it, the language would've literally been buried six feet under long before any of us were born.

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Is it oxymoronic? You could say so. But here's the thing. The English language isn't pure, and "improper use" is nonsensical in a loose language like English. Like what another user said to you two weeks ago, it constantly evolves and incorporates other meanings. English is full of idioms, jargon, colloquialisms, slang, and other colorful stuff. Without it, the language would've literally been buried six feet under long before any of us were born.

I have heard this argument before. I think it's a poor excuse for bad grammar. If we don't have language then we don't have much of anything. We will be reduced to grunts and hand gestures. We won't be able to communicate complex ideas. We won't be able to record our histories. We have to stop the dumbing down of society.

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Why does it matter? :muffins: You're implying that people don't make a load of grammatical errors as is - dude, if people saying "literally" as a way to accent their statement is going to bother you enough to have you write an essay on why it's wrong and no one should do it, you'd have a mental breakdown if you came here to Texas. 

 

I'll write down, word for word, a conversation I had with my grandma this morning:

"Riley! The lawn needs mowin' tomorrow. The grass is gettin' to be too high."

"I don't got no time for none of that, grandma! It's gonna be a Saturday and I'm gonna enjoy myself before I gotta get back to school in a couple of months!"

"Riley, ain't no need in arguin' with me. You're the one who said he was wantin' to make a little bit of money to put toward them ponies you got plastered all over this here room. If you don't wanna mow tomorrow, that's fine, but don't you come crawlin' up to me askin' me to give you the time to mow if you ain't gonna do it tomorrow."

"Dammit, grandma. Fine, but I ain't gonna enjoy it none."

This state would kill you. Especially when you hear how thick the accents we have are.

 

Again, don't expect people to take this literally - it's really just a pet peeve that isn't really problematic to anyone but you. Just don't use it yourself - we all have pet peeves, but most of them there's no point in trying to change :D

 

 

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I have heard this argument before. I think it's a poor excuse for bad grammar. If we don't have language then we don't have much of anything. We will be reduced to grunts and hand gestures. We won't be able to communicate complex ideas. We won't be able to record our histories. We have to stop the dumbing down of society.

That kind of mentality is fear-mongering, and that'll only get people to ignore you. Even as the loose rules of English changes, the same goes for the stronger rules of grammar. The ability to critically think won't devolve, and claiming otherwise is completely ridiculous.

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Blah googy bleew. Oh, sorry, I'm just evolving the English language. It's not my fault you don't understand. Urgh grrmm mmmph

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Blah googy bleew. Oh, sorry, I'm just evolving the English language. It's not my fault you don't understand. Urgh grrmm mmmph

Qiviut is correct. The language the population of a country speaks serves them, not the other way around. If the people evolve so does the language.

New words and phrases develop and the meaning of words change too. Thats how it has always been in linguistics.

 

Trying to purify a language has no use, the language has to fit to the people that speak it.

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Trying to purify a language has no use, the language has to fit to the people that speak it.

So what does it say about the people who speak it if they can't follow simple rules of grammar? There comes a point when a person thinks he is saying one thing, but is in fact saying something else. Languages conveys information, information follows logic. For example, there is a big difference between: "Not all dogs are brown," and "All dogs are not brown." It is faulty to state that language can morph into something arbitrary. 

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Okay, now this is coming from a guy whose native language is German. When I look at English, the biggest difference in comparison to German is... the, um, precision. Language is a tool for communication. But what's the point when you're not actually improving it? I don't say language can't change; of course it does. But multiple meanings for the same word is just one additional thing to make everything more simple at first, but even more complicated in the end. That's my honest opinion on that matter.

 

At the same time, I like English for being so charmingly and weirdly flexible. Yet, sometimes, it's actually quite difficult to understand some things, especially because of things like this whole literally-thingy here.

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This is a battle that was started long before you posted this, and let me be the one to tell you... Give up. xD

 

lit·er·al·ly
ˈlitərəlē,ˈlitrə-/
adverb
 
  1. in a literal manner or sense; exactly
     

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I admit, people using "literally" so liberally is a peeve of mine. If I catch myself doing it (which is rare) or hear someone else say the phrase, I might turn it on its head and add, "or figuratively, as the case may be," or "as opposed to figuratively the worst day of your life."

 

Okay, now this is coming from a guy whose native language is German. When I look at English, the biggest difference in comparison to German is... the, um, precision.

 

I enjoy German for its precision, even if I only know a few words and phrases. Chances are German words will tell you exactly what is being described. It's wonderful.

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