November 10, 2017
Ok, the following is a true story, and you do not need to be a professional content creator to see how f’ing ridiculous it is.
I was sitting around watching one of those home improvement-type shows (can’t recall the name) with the wife one evening. That is pretty unusual in itself, but it did end up taking my dislike for the word “literally” to new heights.
So…we were watching the show, and a certain room in the house had been remodelled. Then, I believe the host of the show walked into the room, sat down, and proclaimed, “When I enter this room, I am literally transported back in time.”
Now, if that isn’t enough to make your head spin, I don’t know what is. You were f’ing literally transported back in time? Are you shitting me? You walked into the room, and a time machine physically took you back to another point in history. You were no longer in the present time??? Come on!
What You Really Mean
I’m not sure why this grammar / wording transgression bothers me so much, but it does so why fight it? If you are a frequent user of the word literally, and love to use it completely out of context, then you are of questionable character and low moral fiber.
Ok, that’s a stretch, but seriously man, you need to tighten that shit up. Literally is supposed to mean that the thing you are referring to happened exactly as you’ve described it. When you bang your knee and say “My leg literally broke in two,” you are not using the word as intended.
What you mean is that it “figuratively” broke in two. Or even it “metaphorically” broke in two. The leg is still intact, so your comment was figurative, not literal. If someone attacked you with a chainsaw and severed the lower part of your leg, then your leg literally broke in two. It is in two separate pieces, and there is nothing figurative about it.
It’s Not Just Misuse
Another issue I tend to have with this avalanche of “literally” is the frequency with which it is used. Even if it were being used correctly, hearing “I literally walked 2 miles to the store,” or “It literally took me 10 minutes to open that jar,” or even a two-for-one like, “It’s literally not even possible to drive when the streets are literally covered in snow,” is enough to drive you completely insane. Some would argue that’s not a particularly long trip for me, but still.
Even the Dictionary???
Unfortunately, my feelings about this word aren’t being shared by the supposed gatekeepers of words and their meanings. Even the dictionary is adding the “non-literal” version of literally to its offerings. Well-known names such as Merriam and Cambridge have followed in Google’s footsteps by including a meaning that goes something like “used to acknowledge that something isn’t literally true but is used for emphasis or to express a strong feeling.”
Are you friggin’ serious right now? I have a pet peeve about adding “right now” to the end of sentences, too. Could it just be me? That’s a debate for another day, but for now you can literally see the boundaries of good grammar taste blurring into obscurity, as we recreate the English language to suit our own needs.
If you have any similar pet peeves when it comes to writing or speaking the English language, I’d love to hear them. And if you’d like to order some world-class content, free from misuse of the word literally, feel free to book a Free Consultation today.
May 08, 2020
It comes from the USA and also the so called celebrity culture that we have.
I’ve read through the comments and agree with it all. It’s not that I speak proper English all the time, but some words just stand out, as noted in your comments. The one I truly cannot stand is “like”. He was like, she was like, I’m like, what the hell happened? Did everyone skip English class? Talk about an overused word that is in every sentence several times. Just listen to the younger generation and you’ll see. It’s on TV talk shows, interviews, etc., and it’s quite embarrassing when you have to use the word “like” constantly. That is my number one pet peeve at the moment as far as the English language is concerned.
April 07, 2020
How about starting and ending sentences with the word so? “So, I went grocery shopping yesterday”, . Or ,“ I’ve been a big baseball fan all my life, so”.Come on, people!!
Great article! I’m so glad I’m not the only one that gets annoyed by this word. I hear it literally (and I mean literally!) at least once a minute at work and it drives me insane! I just want to scream out “stop saying literally! Not everything is literal! If it was then you would be the most interesting person in the world and wouldn’t be working here!”
I detest the word ‘literally’. Literally should never be used. At best it is redundant and at worst it is used in a nonliteral manner. For instance, “the apple is literally round”. Yeah. No shit. It’s an apple. You can just say the apple is round. The use of literally to describe reality is redundant. Also, “My head just literally exploded”. No. It didn’t just ‘literally’ explode, you dullard.
Please. Never use literally.
I’m sure there’s a special place in hell for us grammar police members but I can’t help myself. I hear people throwing the word “literally” around all day long. I work in a law firm and am surrounded by supposed intelligent people. In fact, as I write this, the female lawyer who sits near me has used the word 3 times already in a conversation. Another person who sits behind me uses it all day long. I’d venture to say that she uses it in an average of every 10 sentences. It’s really out of control. It’s annoying as all get out. I don’t know what to do about it except vent right here. Ooh – make that 4x for the female lawyer. She just did it again.
Anyway, thanks for providing a place for me to vent but also a post that makes me feel less crazy.
HERE IS MY LIST:
Fashionable Words and Phrases
having said that (that said, that being said)
at the end of the day
starting a sentence with the word “so”
do the math
I’ve got your back
on the ground in_____
reach out to _____
wrap my head around it
it is what it is
it’s all good
the reality is
how cool is that
What’s the take-away
boots on the ground
literally (used to emphasize)
in the same wheelhouse, in your wheelhouse
How’s that working for you?
uptick instead of increase
There’s a disconnect…
…not so much.
skill set (instead of skills)
north of (instead of more than)
unpack instead of analyze
…wait for it…
baked in the cake
starting your answer to a question with “Sure.”
it is, I am, we are, instead of “yes”
any there there
lanes and buckets (instead of specialties and categories)
get out over your skis
September 16, 2019
I have NO IDEA AT ALL when this perfectly asinine trend first started in America and England (and no doubt in every other nation where English is the primary language), but I’ve read complaints against the blatant misuse of this word going as far back as 2011. Back then, experts had regarded the phenomenon as a Level 4 grammatical error on a scale where 1 was considered a mild irritation and 5 was considered a “permanent grammar mutation” of sorts (my words, not theirs) from which there was no going back. Needless to say, it was a severe problem then, and it’s obviously only gotten worse now, what with Merriam-Webster and Cambridge caving in to the “popular usage” of “literally” and allowing the word’s use to devolve into what it has become now. Thank goodness that TheFreeDictionary.com hasn’t succumbed to trend pressure, though, as I’ve been relying on for years and will continue to do so until they make like Merriam and Cambridge and cave in. Until then, I’m shocked that I was able to blow off this word’s misuse for as long as I have and am kind of embarrassed that I didn’t join in the fight against the fad sooner. Otherwise, we all could have put the kibosh on this idiocy by now.
Also, to anyone who feels the need to tell people like me who hate the misuse of “literally” to “stop complaining,” “accept the change,” and “get over it,” get this: There are PLENTY of words that have received additional meanings within the past decade or two that I myself have come to accept: “Owned” as in beaten in some sort of competition or debate; “epic” as in incredible; “lit” as in excellent or exciting; and most importantly, “basic” as in someone who is someone who is ultra-conformist, not unique, status-seeking through group association unwilling or afraid to express any sort of individuality. It’s this particular kind of person who ultimately follows trends in general and on that note is the most likely to cave in to the whole “literally” craze and jump on the bandwagon when it comes to using the word wrong, not knowing or caring the whole while as to just how foolish they sound in saying it—especially considering that MadTV once parodied the word “literally” being misused in multiple sketches during their existence in the 2000s to show us all just how atrocious the whole act was.
Personally, I blame Parks and Recreation for this whole “literally” thing with Rob Lowe’s character, Chris Traeger. To think, too, that the creator had (from what I’ve read, leastways) written Traeger with the intention of showing us all just how annoying the habit was and still is. Even so…thanks a lot for this whole current situation, P&R. I hate you, too.
June 17, 2019
I just googled “People are literally using literally too much,” and found this. I don’t know why it bothers me so much either. It’s possible it’s because people have latched onto what my father used to call “crutch words,” which are words people use to help them complete their thoughts or sentences. Because everyone else is doing it, they are too. Today, some of those crutch words are, literally, actually, amazing, & super. I know there are more. It bothers me because doing so involves no thought. People are just parroting other people. Speaking of parroting, another pet peeve I’ve mine is the mispronouncing of processes as process-eez. Somebody must have pronounced it that way at one time, people thought it sounded intelligent, so they copied it, but it is incorrect. One might as well pronounce everything that way—sucesseez, danceez, judgeez, houseez, because doing so makes as much sense as saying processeez.
As an English Major and a lawyer, I am literally loving your article to death … right now. Thank you, thank you.
I have some close friends who use “literally” very often. I can’t tell them to stop, no matter how much they do it. I just think how what they say would not be changed if they did not use the word.
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