I dislike the word “literally.”
This wasn’t always the case. I used to look at such a word with fondness, knowing that when I wanted to be clear about something I could always turn to such a word. Yet such times are now past and I only look at this word with scorn and disgust. It started with a misuse of the term by many public speakers: “It literally covered the United States,” “he literally exploded with joy,” “I am literally going to go crazy if I hear that word again.” I understand that many are just ignorant or not thoughtful and I should not punish a word for others’ mistakes but a distance began to grow between “literally” and myself. I’m not alone in this rant; Kurt Anderson (author and radio host) has expressed a similar sentiment.
Now I have noticed that people are using the word correctly but in abundance. “He literally got up and ran.” “She literally fell out of her seat.” “They were literally speechless.” Yes, these are all correct, but not necessary. Why not just say, he got up and ran, she fell out of her seat, etc.? Do we think that people will not believe us unless we speak to the empirical realist epistemology that so many people practice? Do I need to use this word to express exactly what I am doing? And what does this say about our speech the rest of the time? I guess if I don’t hear the word “literally” I should not believe the content of what the person is saying. I probably should assume that everyone is speaking in metaphor. It is an overused, misused word that has become a scourge of or common parlance.
So down with the word “literally.” Strike it from your lexicon. Cast it out from your jargon. Wipe it from the annuals of your mind. If I hear this word again, I will go mad…literally!