I 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)