Literally Depressing

Mathieu ValbuenaI have been literally up to my eyes in it of late with literally all my time being spent working on the new look website, but amid it all there was literally steam coming out of my ears when I heard that the OED had literally said that it was okay to use the word ‘literally’ for emphasis rather than being actually true. This is literally the most depressing news I’ve heard in a long while.

There aren’t many words for which there isn’t an alternative, but ‘literally’ is one of them – that you mean what you say or write in a literal sense and not metaphorically. I suppose you could use the word ‘actually’ instead, but that doesn’t quite mean what you want it to mean.

But the really depressing bit is that we can no longer scoff at those who use ‘literally’ as a misguided intensifier. Like Nick Clegg when he described low-rate taxpayers as ‘literally living in a different galaxy’. Or the Daily Mail reporter who wrote that Andy Murray’s dad was ‘ quite literally bursting with pride’ after his son won Wimbledon.

Sports pundits are great for this, like Jamie Redknapp who said that Wayne Rooney ‘literally on fire’  or the commentator who claimed that ‘Norwegians who are literally born on skis’.

Or Alan Shearer who once said ‘after the first goal went in you could literally see the Derby players shrinking’. Of course that might be correct if he was watching the photo above of Wednesday’s France and Belgium game which appears to show Mathieu Valbuena as a midget alongside Marouane Fellaini and Vincent Kompany.

Now it seems that ‘literally’ can join the ranks of all the other hyperbolic words of the communication age until it literally loses all its meaning.

But I need to make a grovelling apology (quite literally because I’m typing this on my knees) for my lack of posts lately and for not keeping up with my blog reading, but I’ve spent an awful lot of time trying to get to grips with the new site layout. I haven’t managed to get it as I want it and I’ve literally given up for now. (Waves white hankie in the air)

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

14 comments… Add yours
  • Trevor Rowley 17th August 2013

    Disappointing that the English language should be dictated to by those herberts who, generally, have no grasp of it. I would often get into disagreements with a work colleague who went out of her way to try to convince me that “English was an evolving language and that we had to embrace all the changes that came along because that was how people spoke and wrote their language.” I could only ever think of one way of replying and that was to use a good, old-fashioned Englishism – and it rhymes with “rollocks.” Rednapp and his like aren’t employed for their intellect and I can barely remember him as a footballer.

    (Exits stage left to find a darkened room to lie down in)

    Reply
  • Mr Parrot 17th August 2013

    I know what you mean, although I know what your colleague meant. Words do change with usage and to be fair to the OED, all they do is reflect that usage with their definitions. The problem with ‘literally’ is that we don’t have a literal alternative!

    Reply
    • Trevor Rowley 19th August 2013

      Bad habits become engrained in regular, everyday behaviour, Mr P. The English language is no different to that and which usually reflects the facts that either 1. People can become quite lazy where language is concerned or 2. They didn’t know the rules in the first place. Occasionally, I have told shopkeepers about incorrect spelling or punctuation in their shop’s signage. The usual response suggests that either they haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about (eyes glaze over) or just aren’t interested (far to busy to talk about nothing with pesky members of the public). Quite literally, as they said when the Titanic was going down, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

      Reply
  • pianokitty 17th August 2013

    This is literally the worst thing I have ever heard. I am gutted. If even the OED is going to fail me all that’s left is hara-kiri.

    Reply
    • Mr Parrot 18th August 2013

      Sadly the OJD (Osaka Japanese Dictionary) now defines hari kiri as ‘live long and prosper’.

      Reply
  • Roger Green 18th August 2013

    I agree, FWIW.

    Reply
  • "Bin It" Pudding 18th August 2013

    I hate to see streets that are very literally as litter is an eyesore. People who are literally should be made to pick up their mess. Well that’s what I think but I have no experience of being literally myself.

    Reply
    • rhymeswithplague 19th August 2013

      But Mr. or Ms. Pudding, as the case may be, if you have no experience of being literally yourself, who the #@*$% are you?

      Reply
      • Hurt Pudding 19th August 2013

        No need to get nasty with me just because I spotted “tool gates” in your last post! Manners cost nothing old chap but they are worth a great deal.

        Reply
        • rhymeswithplague 19th August 2013

          You never spotted “tool gates” in my last post. You spotted “tool gates” in one of ian’s/Mr. Parrot’s posts.

          Get a programme. You can’t tell the players without a programme. (I’m using British spelling for easier understanding at that end.)

          Reply
  • Hurt Pudding 19th August 2013

    Oh sorry – now I see that the nasty post was not from you at all but from Mr Nasty over in Mister Man Land, USA. Can’t we delete our comments any more?

    Reply
  • Mr Parrot 19th August 2013

    The sooner I reinstate the editing function the better I think!

    Reply
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