Cleaving to sanctions, literally

Roger has literally had it up to here with “literally”:

When Webster and other dictionaries announced that the second definition of the word “literally” means “figuratively” — “My head literally exploded” — I had some difficulty with that. Still I tried to shoehorn this new meaning into my vocabulary. Alas, I have failed.

There’s only one honest alternative left:

So while using literally to mean figuratively may be OK (for some), what do I use when I REALLY, REALLY mean literally? How can I make this clear to the reader/listener?

Therefore, I must sadly conclude that the word “literally” has been rendered useless to me. If it doesn’t mean one thing, but rather the thing OR its opposite, then it doesn’t mean anything at all.

Thus, I must purge it from my vocabulary — literally. And by “literally,” I mean the first, original meaning of the term.

While we’re at it, let’s move away from “democracy,” which in 2013 means absolute rule by a self-selected aristocracy via manipulation of 50.1 percent of the electorate, and from “upgrade,” which in 2013 means “whatever we feel like foisting off on you miserable whining users, so shut up and click Agree to the EULA.”


  1. Roger Green »

    21 September 2013 · 9:25 pm

    I don’t use the word ‘cleave’ either, for pretty much the same reason.

  2. McGehee »

    22 September 2013 · 7:55 am

    The value of “literally” has been decimated.

  3. hatless in hattiesburg »

    22 September 2013 · 11:35 pm

    there’s a t-shirt i saw online that said:

    your misuse of the word “literally” makes me figuratively insane!

  4. fillyjonk »

    23 September 2013 · 12:57 pm

    I propose a hyphenation. We can say “Literally-literally” when we really mean literally, and “literally-figuratively” when we actually mean figuratively.

    Of course, in another 20 years or so, we’ll probably be up to “literally-literally-literally” or “literally-literally-figuratively-figuratively.”

    I used to be a real stickler for “decimated’ but finally decided that that was a losing battle. That, and insisting that “data” are actually plural, not singular.

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