March 24, 2014

Let's literally take a stand

I heard some disturbing news the other day and I was so amazed that my teeth literally fell out of my mouth. And yes, apparently I can say that because the news was that the OED, as well as Mirriam-Webster, define 'literally' as 'virtually'. Will the madness never end?
Mirriam-Webster 2:  in effect :  virtually 
Oxford English Dictionary
c. colloq. Used to indicate that some (freq. conventional) metaphorical or hyperbolical expression is to be taken in the strongest admissible sense: ‘virtually, as good as’; (also) ‘completely, utterly, absolutely’. Now one of the most common uses, although often considered irregular in standard English since it reverses the original sense of literally.

Yes, yes, yes, I know that English is literally an ever-moving river of thought and change, and frequently sludge, but really, this is bit much. Let's face it, this is big.

If we accept that what is literal is actually only figurative than there goes the comic validity of Sheldon Cooper cocking his head, raising his eyebrows as he says, "literally?" when Penny enthusiastically says something like, "My head literally exploded!" This always gets a huge laugh, as it should. Sheldon is a hoot, as is Penny. (If you don't watch The Big Bang Theory, you might try it. We all need a little inane laughter in our lives.)

Not only will comedy be effected. How will we know when literally means just that. Suppose I went to a hockey game and was hit in the mouth by a puck and I was telling you that my teeth literally fell out of my mouth. How would you know whether or not they had? Well, the ice pack, tears, the inability to open my mouth and the need to write all of this down for you might give it away. But you get my drift.

So, as writers, readers, and lovers of the English language, I think we should literally take a stand - in front of the TV as we watch The Big Bang Theory and wear helmets to hockey games while standing in an upright position

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