Friday, August 16, 2013

Literally don’t care

I’m a grammar enforcer on a number of things—use of apostrophes chief among them—but most modern word usages and fads leave me literally unconcerned. I use literally as it was meant to be used, of course.

“Literally” means actual. So, as they say in the CNN video above, if someone said, “I literally died laughing,” then they’d be dead. In which case, they’d be literally unable to speak about the state of their mirth.

In the new definitions the linked article refers to, literally now means figuratively, too. Informal speech is often lazy, and it seems to me this usage is, too. While someone is unlikely to say, “I figuratively died laughing”, they could simply say, “I died laughing,” and leave it alone without misusing another word, one they use for mere emphasis.

Still, I don’t really care that much. English is constantly evolving and changing, and it always has been. New words enter usage and old ones die out. If literally is now okay to use merely for emphasis, one day that usage may replace the real one. Someday, I’m convinced, even my beloved apostrophes will literally disappear from use.

The only alternative to an evolving language would be a static, never-changing one, policed by dour grammarians who criminalised improper usage of words. Okay, that’s not literally the only alternative. I was speaking figuratively. For emphasis.

I think that’s literally enough for this post.


rogerogreen said...

Damn liberal... Actually, it doesn't much bother me, but I won't do it because it undercuts when I write "LOL, literally."

rogerogreen said...

OK. I have changed my mind; I can't STAND it. http://blog.timesunion.com/rogergreen/literally-you-are-dead-to-me/3595/

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Actually, I really liked that post. I literally though—oh, never mind.