This misuse of “literally” is such a thorn in my side, too.
Weird Al’s “Word Crimes” expresses my sentiment well:
And I thought that you’d gotten it through your skull
‘Bout what’s figurative and what’s literal
Oh, but just now (just now) you said (you said)
You “literally couldn’t get out of bed” (what)
That really makes me wanna literally
Smack a crowbar upside your stupid head
A brief complaint about ‘literally’.
The word ‘literally’ is meant to emphasize the truth and accuracy of a statement or description or to express exact equivalence with the meaning of each individual word given.
In the first case, you might say, “The house was literally shaken from its foundation during the earthquake.” This is meant to convey the idea that the house is no longer attached to the foundation on which it was built. Really. For real. Not exaggerating.
In the second case —expressing equivalence— you might say, “tempus fugit literally means time flies.” It is a word-for-word translation of the Latin phrase.
But you didn’t ‘literally’ die when Taylor Swift liked your Instagram post.
How ironic that a term designed to emphasize a statement has transformed into just the opposite. It has, in fact, evolved to mean ‘figuratively’ in most cases! The misuse and overuse of ‘literally’ has at…
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