Literally: adverb. In a literal manner or sense; exactly. Used to emphasize the truth and accuracy of a statement or description.

 

That is the definition of the word “literally” from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. That is what I’ve been led to believe is the true meaning of the word, and that is how I’ve used the word my entire life. However, there is also another definition now.

 

Literally: adverb. Used in an exaggerated way to emphasize a statement or description that is not literally true or possible.

 

Dude, seriously? They use the word correctly in the totally incorrect definition. How confusing is that. So if it’s “not literally true”, does that mean it’s not true, or that it’s actually kind of true? Doesn’t this defeat the whole purpose of the word “literally”? I don’t even know what I’m saying. My head hurts. This is literally like a literal Inception, literally.

 

Why can’t the people who make words just make up another word? It’s as if so many people were using it incorrectly that they just caved like lenient parents. “Ahhh fine, it can mean that too.”

 

Orrrrr, how about everyone just uses it correctly?

 

I can’t stand when people use the word “literally” in a nonliteral sense. It literally annoys me.

 

“Omg, I’m literally dying from that picture.”

 

Oh are you? Is the picture poisonous? Did it pull out a picture gun and shoot you? Is it one of those pesky hitman pictures? Wait, what? Those don’t exist? Hmm, guess that means you aren’t literally dying, are you?

 

“Those wings are spicy, my mouth is literally on fire. ”

 

What? Did the spicy wings pour gasoline into your mouth and then toss a match into it? Are you in the circus? Are you a dragon? Oh man, I better go get the fire extinguisher! Oh, what’s that you say? It isn’t actually on fire? You just said “literally” to add effect? Sounds a lot like being over-dramatic.

 

My personal favorite:

 

“I literally can’t even.”

 

You literally can’t even what? Use the word “literally” correctly? Finish a whole sentence? This “sentence” makes me literally confused.

 

So, in summary, the word “literally” either means the absolute truth, or the complete opposite of the absolute truth. You can literally just choose which definition you want. Maybe I’m the only one, but this just seems crazy to me. When I try to think about it, I literally can’t even.

 

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138 thoughts on “Literally Literal

  1. I don’t know if anybody else pointed this out but maybe what we’re encountering here linguistically is a complete about turn; maybe ‘literal’ along with cognates has become (I hate to say it) “the new” ‘metaphorical’ (and cognates of course!)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. ‘I literally can’t even.’ Yes, that sums it up. I’m ashamed of the culture today where people can’t even type out complete or coherent sentences. ‘When bae gives you a look.’ Is it really so hard to type the extra b in there?

    Social media & auto correct: It’s the dumbification of the world.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “You literally can’t even what? Use the word β€œliterally” correctly?”

    Haha! I’m completely with you on this one. The use- or should I say, misuse- of the word “literally” drives me insane. Not literally, of course. But close. 😝

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Funny. ( Yeah, I know, funny is not a sentence, not even a phrase) I enjoyed your post nevertheless. Here’s a pet peeve of mine for your perusal. People use the subjective case pronoun, I, after prepositions. For example: “He was very kind to my wife and I.” Switch the pronoun and noun and see how dumb it sounds. Worst of all, they do it thinking it makes them sound intelligent. I hear newscasters doing it all the time. Aren’t these guys supposed to have degrees in journalism.

    Liked by 2 people

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