You know what makes me literally sick? The overuse of the word literally.
That’s right, every time I hear that particular adjective, which is literally a billion times a time, I catch cold, contract the measles or come down with an acute case of leprosy.
I’m literally writing this from my death bed. Sorry if it’s not very funny. I’m having trouble concentrating over the sound of my wife’s weeping. She’s literally bawling her eyes out. The left one just rolled under the bed. Now the cat’s got it.
Great, now that one-eyed Mandy is chasing the cat, I can get back to literally fuming about the word literally. Let me just wipe the steam off my screen … there.
OK. Anyone who has even the tiniest iota of linguistic nerdiness inside him or her will know that language is always changing. Over the centuries, the meanings of words have morphed and gotten mashed together and now look totally different than their ancient ancestors. Words aren’t meant to be set in stone. That’s why the article you’re reading right now isn’t just a bunch of pictures of hairy guys throwing sticks at Snuffleluffleguses. Or is it Snufflelufflegi?
For example, Webster’s Dictionary just tweeted that the definition of the word “polling” has just been changed to literally mean, “to hit someone upside the head with a poll.” Yikes. This is going to make this year’s election coverage very confusing.
Nah, I’m literally pulling your leg. Better hope you’ve got that belt on tight.
But I have my limits to the whole shifting meanings thing. For example, I literally can’t stand the word literally anymore. It just keeps falling down. People literally use literally all the time, for everything. It’s the go-to word to emphasize a point. You want people to know you had trouble waking today, you tell them you literally couldn’t wake up today.
Of course, if that were true, I suppose you wouldn’t be telling them that, since you’d still be sleeping. Unless you were sleep talking, of course. But that’s a whole other … OK, sorry. Bad example. Let’s move on.
Truth be told, I’m just being a smarty. I know when people say, “literally,” they don’t literally mean “literally.” They mean “figuratively,” which is literally the exact opposite of “literally.”
Which, as I keep explaining to the tiny civilization of intellectual amoebas living on the end of my fingernails, is what’s literally driving me crazy.
Look, I’m aware this makes me sound like an old fuddy duddy (even more so than using the term “fuddy duddy”) rambling on about how, back in my day words meant what words meant, and not the exact opposite of what they meant. They have a bunch of negative terms for folks like me … “grammar nazi,” the “guardian of language” … “old.” You’re meant to use all of these terms in the same way you mention other outdated practices or viewpoints or ideas, like “objective media” or “today’s best country music.”
I’ll try to adjust my way of thinking. Get with the times, so to speak. But like a tortoise drowning in quick-drying cement, some mindsets literally die hard.