Don’t you get irked every time you hear someone misuse the word “literally”? Whether by sports announcers, political commentators, or entertainers, “literally” is increasingly being used incorrectly. In this era of constant media, there’s no escaping the abuse. When improperly used so often, “literally” loses its punctuation value. What was once meant to accentuate a point now has no effect. And when something is true in the literal sense, we are left to wonder: Did “literally” mean literally? Or did it mean metaphorically or figuratively?
According to Merriam-Webster, literally means “free from exaggeration or embellishment.” Knowing this may help the abusers get their message across better. People will notice speakers are not misusing “literally.” Speakers will gain credibility with their audience, who in turn will be less dismissive of the speakers’ proclamations.
I decided to create this site to catalog the times “literally” is misused, along with other spoken grammatical errors. The site name is taken from the title of a Steve Rushin article he wrote for Sports Illustrated in 2001. Take the time to read it. I’m sure you will be as amused as I was.
Here are just a few examples I heard from talk radio recently:
- “I was literally sweating bullets.”––Caller from The Rush Limbaugh Show
- “Do you get the sense that the President is literally operating without a net?”––Mike Barnacle, Morning Joe
- It’s not right “to literally rip people off.”––Caller on John Kass’ radio show
- “…they were literally having cows over my comments.”––Rush Limbaugh
- Referring to a hockey coach who threw his team’s sticks onto the ice, “he literally left them shorthanded.”––Bill Plaschke on Around The Horn
There is scarcely anyone who is not guilty of this verbal misdemeanor. So if you hear a misuse of “literally,” whether it’s in the media or in person, feel free to share with this site. Just go to I Spotted a Gaffe.
If it’s something you heard in conversation, share that too. For that, no names are needed. Just submit what was said. After all, we don’t want to embarrass anyone.
Sure, this site is just for fun, but if it educates the public as well, so much the better.
So enjoy reading and feel free to send in an entry of your own at any time. Literally.