by Rob Cottignies
There is a dog named Pete. He’s a dopey little thing with short stick legs; the kind of dog you’d often see on illegally-too-long leashes in the park. Upon meeting this dog, someone recently exclaimed something to this effect- ‘His name is Pete? I literally just met another dog named Pete. Literally Pete.’ While the first use of the sad and abused L word is apparently acceptable now, the second one was completely inappropriate, ridiculous, and obviously wrong. It made no sense, but it inspired a scheme in my brain. I’ll get to that. This poor word is running through a gauntlet of eternal misery. Every time I conquer an incorrect usage, a newer one is lurking around the corner with a battle axe. If a building exploded each time ‘literally’ was used improperly, we’d all be homeless. It’s being thrown around like a live grenade covered in spikes and bad similes. I’ve accepted that this abuse will not stop but will likely increase to a clinically-maddening level, but I’m still going to fight the good fight. I believe ‘literally’ will be used only for translation once again.
So, on that, everyone is in a big old hullaballoo because certain dictionaries and other resources have added a definition to the ‘literally’ entry. It states, and I quote from merriam-webster.com, ‘in effect; virtually’. This has rendered the term useless. Why? Well, its two definitions are OPPOSITES of each other. Can a stop sign be red and not red? OK, very funny, one could make a blue stop sign if one were so inclined. But that’s not what I mean and if you think it is, play with a toaster in the bathtub. “But the toaster could be unplugged.” Ugh, you bother me.
Without getting into a crazy philosophical debate (which I am willing to do), something cannot be something and also not be that same something. “When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar!” You’re killing me.
Anyway, this dictionarial™ addition happened simply because people are using the word horribly. I know words tend to change meanings in living languages but I’ve never heard of this. I’m wondering if I start calling fire trucks ‘buggiblops’ and it catches on like an insanely infectious disease, would it too be added to the dictionary?
This unfortunate situation reminds me of another word which has been flagrantly misused. ‘Anymore.’ For knowledge’s sake, this word must be preceded by some kind of negative. I don’t set people on fire anymore. The statement clearly shows that I formerly engaged in bodily arson, but for various reasons I no longer partake. This grammatical assault was more common a few years ago, when I overheard a man in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, say ‘It’s all bullshit anymore.” His wordage was incorrect, but I did and still do agree with him.
Now, back to ‘literally’, my aforementioned brainscheme goes as follows: What I would like for myself and people on my side in this war to being doing is completely destroying the word. I know this is being done anyway, but I’m talking about savagery. Go to the butcher shop and ask for fifteen pounds of shredded ‘literally’. For example, say things like this:
‘That tree is literally.’
‘My literally name is Rob.’
‘I literally did a literally job.’
Beat the life out of this word. Use it where it can’t even be disguised as making sense by some stupid Redcoat dictionary. Use it as an adjective, noun, verb, or even a part of speech that doesn’t exist.
‘Literally is going to literally the literally.’
What!? Saying things like this will get you some pretty strange looks, however take comfort in knowing that you gave these looks first to the people who began this whole atrocity.
Post-script: I was going to name this post ‘Literally The Third’ since it’s the third in my thusfar unheeded series, but I opted for ‘Literally III’. This is clever because it says the same thing but III also looks like the word ill. You’re welcome.
Post-post-script: Off-topic, and perhaps this could be another useless post, but I recently had a nice discussion with two Italians about the use of ‘You’re welcome’ as a response to being thanked. I think it makes no sense. Here is what does make sense- ‘Hey, this is your first time to my house. You’re welcome.’ It’s a gestural statement. ‘Thanks for helping me move my couch.’ ‘You’re welcome.’ ‘To what? The couch? But it’s already mine. And it smells funny.’ This is how I see it: As usual, the Europeans have it right. Bitte. De nada. De rien. Prego. Tað var so lítið. Khahesh mikonam. Не за что!
Look those up and translate them.