You Are Literally Killing The English Language.

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I have an issue with “twerk” and “selfie” being added to the dictionary, because they are stupid words, but I have a MUCH BIGGER problem with them changing/adding to the meaning of the word “literally.”

At least with twerk and selfie, while terrible, made up words, are words that have definitive meanings. We know what they mean, what they describe, and they are used so liberally in modern society, that I get why someone would add them to our written list of all the words we agree are words.

And in the end, isn’t every word made up? SOMEONE made it up at some point. According to Shakespeare-online.com: “The English language owes a great debt to Shakespeare. He invented over 1700 of our common words by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and devising words wholly original.” And then goes on to list some of the words, including links to the original scene in which they are found.

So yeah, making up new words (even if they are ridiculously stupid) doesn’t really bother me. That’s how languages progress, develop, change, and sometimes shrivel up and die. Change happens.

BUT WE HAVE SADLY MASSACRED THE WORD ‘LITERALLY.’

For the love of G-d, look at this entry in the MERRIAM-FRICKIN’-WEBSTER DICTIONARY:

1 : in a literal sense or manner : actually <took the remark literally> <was literally insane>

2 : in effect : virtually <will literally turn the world upside down to combat cruelty or injustice.>

They add a caveat:

“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.”

Hyperbole, right. Because the people who don’t understand the word “literally” understand the proper usage and context of hyperbole. Perhaps they can even pronounce it, too!

Here’s a great (and short!) article in The Week called “How The Wrong Definition Of ‘Literally’ Sneaked Into The Dictionary.” And it shows that Merriam-Webster is not the only dictionary that has fallen. Apparently even the Cambridge Dictionaries Online and the Oxford Dictionary have added the “informal usage.”

THIS LITERALLY BURNS MY SOUL. See how I use the correct, ACTUAL definition of this word? My delicious medium-rare Jew-y soul now has sad blackened spots that get blacker and more charred every time some ironic-t-shirt-wearing, Starbucks-obsessed (Even though I don’t like coffee, can I please have a soy-mocha-hazelnut-nutmeg-with-diet-whipped-cream), iphone-toting (Like, OMG, my iphone is LITERALLY the best thing that has ever ever happened to me and I would LITERALLY die if you took it away!), giant-sunglasses-wearing asshole misuses it.

And now that misuse is the actual dictionary. What has our world come to?! When stupid people misuse a word so often that we just give up and accept it as the norm. THINK OF THE CHILDREN.

The Mayans were wrong and the world didn’t end in 2012, but this poison-dart to my vocabulary-loving heart makes me feel it should have! Before this monstrosity.

LITERALLY MEANS ACTUALLY. An actual thing that is actually for-real happening.

EXAMPLE: “I literally just stabbed myself in the eye accidentally when trying to push up my glasses. This happened because I literally forgot I was wearing contacts today, in conjunction with the fact that I am a literal klutz.”

NOT A CORRECT USE OF THE WORD LITERALLY: “Oh my god, is that Matt Bomer walking down the street? He is so hot that I literally just caught on fire and died as he walked by.”

Also NOT LITERAL: “I love Offspring so much that if I got tickets to their show, I’d literally explode into a zillion pieces!”

Which would make you unable to enjoy their live show, or anything else ever ever again.

If we could all just agree not to do this thing, this thing with the words where they don’t mean what you think it means and you’re just using it to emphasize or be funny or something, just stop. We all know you’re just not that funny. When you misuse such a common word, like “literally,” it makes me want to stab YOU in the eye. Literally. On purpose.

Or it might not be on purpose. Ask Husband. He is the unfortunate victim of plenty of fingernail stabbings, accidental punches, and other various and sundry injuries. They are almost always non-life-threatening, and he knows they are completely accidental and a direct result of my clumsiness (see above, literal klutz), but he still doesn’t like it.

I try to be careful! But it’s so hard, what with all the walls that jump into my way, doorjambs that mysteriously appear, and his face is suddenly just right there!

Oops.

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Written by

Entrepreneur, writer, editor, book coach, cat lover, weirdo, optimist. Author of “Write. Get Paid. Repeat.” & “Concept to Conclusion.” jyssicaschwartz.com

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