Grammar Gripe: I’m Literally Going to Kill You

No I’m not, but, one would only realize this if they understood what literally actually meant. Turns out, most people use it to LITERALLY mean the opposite of what it does. Let’s review, shall we?

Dictionary.com

lit·er·al·ly –  actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy

fig·ur·a·tive – of the nature of or involving a figure of speech,  especially a metaphor

In plain language, by saying something literally happened you are saying this is EXACTLY what happened. So, I am going to make a few assumptions. By virtue of the fact that you’re reading this, you have never literally died from anything, including embarrassment, fright, or sadness; your head has never literally exploded due to anger; your heart has never literally been broken (With the exception of someone who is reading this and has had some sort of heart surgery, I will give you that one); and you have probably never even wanted to literally murder anyone. Now, shamefully think about all the times you have said those things.

Literally saved by the bell.

See what I’m going for here people? These things happen figuratively, but people think that by saying “literally” (often pronounced liiiiiiiiiterally) that they’re stressing how extreme the situation is. Doesn’t work that way. I read one today on a LinkedIn profile: “I literally fell into public relations.” Really? You fell into a big bucket of PR, did you? Honestly, as someone who works in PR, I can’t imagine using this on my casual Facebook page, let alone my professional LinkedIn profile.

Yes, I know what you are trying to do, but think about the fact that you sound like a blowhard illiterate. There, I said it! Knowing the definitions of words is part of being educated, if you don’t know the definition of a word, don’t use it. This is something I have to regularly tell the college students whose papers I grade. It’s embarrassing.

Next time you want to throw out the L-word, take a step back and imagine the scenario in your head as if it’s actually happening. If someone’s pants aren’t literally on fire because they lied to you, just leave the word literally out of the equation. It’s tired of being misused and figuratively is annoyed at the lack of credit we give him.

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2 thoughts on “Grammar Gripe: I’m Literally Going to Kill You

  1. I literally just laughed at this; my ass is still attached, so the ass was not literally laughed off, but it was still pretty funny. I’m also literally the asshole who calls others out for inappropriate use of the word.

  2. As someone who has literally suffered because of arguing over ‘literal’, ‘metaphorical’ and ‘allegorical’, I have resigned myself to simply abusing the terms in the company of those who abuse it.

    http://www.themindisaterriblething.com/2011/08/no-david-lose-that-is-not-what-bible-is.html

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