Wednesday, March 14, 2007

People, "Literally" Means Literally

It will likely come as no surprise to anyone that grammar was never a class I enjoyed. Today, I tend to change tense mid-sentence, create run-ons at will, mix singulars and plurals, use commas too frequently, and dangle my participles way too much (swing, baby).

However, even I have my "grammar buttons". One of my buttons is the use of the word "literally". "Literally" is a fine word....when used appropriately. However, users need to keep in mind that when you use "literally" it means "exactly". Because of this, it should be used with some discretion.

Let me list a few abuses that have burned themselves into my memory. Keep in mind, these are all factual occurences...I literally have heard every one of them....
  1. "He is literally on fire right now" - Bill Walton, NBA Game. Bill, if he is literally on fire he should stop, drop, and roll.
  2. "Kurt Cobain was literally a god" - Unknown fan on MTV several years ago. Now, I'm no sociologist, but I'm pretty sure even the most pagan of societies would have thought long and hard before elevating Kurt to that level.
  3. "We are literally going to dissect a C compiler" - One of my computer instructors in college. - Even as a young college student I was a jerk. When I heard this the first thing that came to mind was prying open the computer and using a scalpel to remove chips and circuitry. How I avoided being beaten up on a regular basis still amazes me.
  4. "He is literally being impaled out there" - Unknown sportscaster during a Bulls game. Unless they have taken renaissance fairs to a new level, I am thinking the announcer was overstating.
  5. "The moon is literally being swallowed up by the earth." - Local newscaster during the recent lunar eclipse. That sound I heard after this brain dump was Kepler, Brahe, Copernicus, Newton, and Galileo turning over in their respective graves. (please note: I did not say "literally turning over in their respective graves")

So, as you can see, I do have my buttons...and I do have personal issues. And, in case you were wondering, yes, I knew those astronomers. If their names are misspelled, it is because I did it from memory. My issues with obscure references in blog entries that someone had to "look up" is another of my buttons....to be discussed another day.

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