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Tag Archives: literally

Everyone take a deep breath, delete the “we finally killed English” joke from your Facebook wall, and stop making terrible “literally” jokes1.

From my understanding of the news breaking, the main culprit is Gizmodo’s post2 on the subject, though one of their sources seems to have nailed it. But before I get to the latter, let’s talk about the former. Here’s how the first sentence starts:

Grammar loving folks who love to point out where commas should be inserted instead of periods and how semi-colons are both simultaneously underused and overused, should pick up their red pens, furrowed brows and pitchforks at the fact that the definition of literally is literally no longer the literal definition of literally.

Son, that’s not how you spell “Grammar-loving,” I don’t know how to pick up furrowed brows, that first comma doesn’t belong there3, and maybe “because of” or “in response to” but definitely not “at.” Sure, it’s not a grammar thing, but “the fact that” is excessive and I guess if you’re going for heavy-handed, you’ve got to just really drive that home at the end of a sentence, right?

At any rate, where that bit’s terrible, the other link from The Week also points out that despite adding the terribly disheartening new definition, Merriam-Webster4 also “added the disclaimer that ‘Since some people take sense 2 to be the opposite of sense 1, it has been frequently criticized as a misuse. Instead, the use is pure hyperbole intended to gain emphasis, but it often appears in contexts where no additional emphasis is necessary.'” Those beautiful, brilliant bastards.

Let me give you an example of another word I think is straight-up stupid. Try this video where an editor from Merriam-Webster explains that irregardless is both a word and a word that people will think you are stupid for using.

So what’s changed is that Merriam-Webster has finally expanded literally’s definition in the second, hyperbolic sense so that when people inevitably look it up, they will know that it is technically the wrong way to use it. They will finally understand that it is both a word and a word that, if used in the hyperbolic sense, people will think you are stupid for using.

Stay literate out there, amigos.

1. Things like “We literally killed English today” or the entire miserable Gizmodo post. While you’re here, I should also mention that he misspelled “make-believe” and “more so” in the second paragraph as well as “humans'” in the final sentence.
2. This is how it appeared on 8/15/2013. I doubt they’ll correct any of it, but, you know, that’s what it said before they edited it (if they do).
3. I am aware of the irony of this clause.
4. This is the industry standard. I used to test apps for a living, but the M-W app is the only one I use every single day.
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