Literally, you’re killing me…

A brief complaint about ‘literally’.

The word ‘literally’ is meant to emphasize the truth and accuracy of a statement or description or to express exact equivalence with the meaning of each individual word given.

In the first case, you might say, “The house was literally shaken from its foundation during the earthquake.” This is meant to convey the idea that the house is no longer attached to the foundation on which it was built. Really. For real. Not exaggerating.

In the second case —expressing equivalence— you might say, “tempus fugit literally means time flies.” It is a word-for-word translation of the Latin phrase.

But you didn’t ‘literally’ die when Taylor Swift liked your Instagram post.

How ironic that a term designed to emphasize a statement has transformed into just the opposite. It has, in fact, evolved to mean ‘figuratively’ in most cases! The misuse and overuse of ‘literally’ has at a minimum, diluted its meaning. For example, if you tell someone you are literally losing your mind, are they going to advise you to seek psychiatric help? Doubtful.

I wish this tendency to overuse ‘literally’ would fade into obscurity. And I hope I don’t sound like a grumpy old school teacher. [Yes, I know I do…]

43 thoughts on “Literally, you’re killing me…

  1. I literally loved this…….oh yes, I did!
    It’s even dangerous now to write SIC after a deliberate quote of misspelling or misuse. Youngsters (and some not so young) think you are saying it’s cool, or awesome!
    Even the word SIC has changed apparently, and can now mean “spelling is correct” rather than being Latin for “thus”.
    I know that grammar and word usage has to change over time but it does irk me so!
    I think I may be getting old!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m with you, Peter. Spelling is correct? Then why would you even need to add it? And repeating ‘do you know what I mean’ is another pet peeve of mine. As is beginning a sentence with ‘well, I mean..” you haven’t said anything yet! Yes, I may be getting old, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Cynthia Hilston – Author & Blogger and commented:
    This misuse of “literally” is such a thorn in my side, too.

    Weird Al’s “Word Crimes” expresses my sentiment well:

    And I thought that you’d gotten it through your skull
    ‘Bout what’s figurative and what’s literal
    Oh, but just now (just now) you said (you said)
    You “literally couldn’t get out of bed” (what)
    That really makes me wanna literally
    Smack a crowbar upside your stupid head

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I LITERALLY am fed up with how the English language has taken a downward spiral into what I call dumbville. Texting doesn’t help either. People do not like receiving a text from me, because it is proper; resembles a short story compared to their “2day i sat b4 u ttyl”. Many thing irritate me with how the English language is today. I also am fearful of how the future will look in about 50 years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! My texts are always full sentences, with actual words and correct punctuation. The worst is when you see bad grammar and punctuation in prominent publications like newspapers/online news articles. Even the professionals are getting sloppy! In 50 years we might not recognize English!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. [sic] is used when you’re quoting a word or phrase exactly as it was written or spoken even though it may be misspelled or used improperly. I’m not sure of the ‘literal translation’ 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think you touched a nerve. Reblogged this on my site. Literally has really been getting on my nerves. I’d to suggest you do a blog on annoying words. I’d like to blast “ya know…” off the face of the earth. And the most irritating thing about that particular phrase is that it’s often used by educated people who should know better. My grammar is terrible at times, but sometimes a word(s) gets so overused that its misuse is completely overlooked.

    And you do not sound like or resemble the grumpy teacher you speak of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good idea, Tom! And thank you! I’ll put away my ruler and granny glasses then. You’re right – it’s the worst when you’re listening to an interview with someone professional and they use poor language and vocabulary. So disappointing!


  5. That’s so ‘Lit’ 😂
    Which, incidentally, has morphed as well.
    It (Lit), used to be slang for ‘intoxicated’ – I should know.
    It now means ‘exciting’ or ‘excellent.’
    Hope it stays that way!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve heard similar with Actually, “I actually died when he texted me”… 🤪

    The crime that really gets me going though is when someone wants to “Revert to me” on email.

    You were never me you imbecile, you can’t revert to me!! Feel free to reply to me. On second thoughts don’t.

    There’s just two exceptions of acceptable use of reverting to an email. If it’s as part of legal speak (in which case I suspect you’ve got the wrong address) or if you’re 100% Indian and emailing from India as that’s where it stemmed from.

    Rant over 😤😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t seen that one in my emails. However, I’m not usually involved in ‘business’ type correspondence so… Or maybe it’s a UK thing and hasn’t made it here yet! You folks are always ahead of the trend! ‘Actually’ is another of my pet peeves as well!


  7. Unfortunately, that supposed caretaker of the English Language, the Oxford English Dictionary, accepted that usage had changed the meaning of ‘literally’ to include ‘figuratively’ some years ago. I think it was a mistake, as we no longer have any word that expresses the unique qualities espoused by ‘literally’, but that’s the outcome when usage overcomes common sense, I suppose.

    Liked by 1 person

What's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.