From the entry on the word literally on Dictionary.com :
2.in a literal manner; word for word: to translate literally.
3.actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy: The city was literally destroyed.
4.in effect; in substance; very nearly; virtually.
So, I have to say it. We need to start charging people for using the word “literally.” I believe that the United States of America may be able to cut our trillion dolloar deficit in half if we fined our beautiful citizens $1.oo every time they said the word “literally.” Or, even if we just fined them every time they used the word incorrectly.
(By the way, if I had said ” We could literally cut our trillion dollar deficit in half…,” I would be fined. We could not actually cut the deficit in half by charging money for the use of a single word.)
1.) “I was so sick yesterday. I literally threw up a millions times last night.” Um, then why are you not dead?
2.) “My mom is the meanest woman in the world. She is literally as mean as Hitler.” This claim malfunctions in two ways: first, you cannot use literally in an opinion. If your mom is literally as bad as Hitler, we need some sort of scientific measure that can quantify the evil acts of your mother compared with Hitler’s sins against humanity. Second, I seriously doubt that your mom is as mean as Hitler. Your mom confiscating your cell phone (because you acted like a jackass) does not equal the genocide of millions of people.
3.) “That guy is such an idiot. I literally cannot stand him.” Please see # 3 above. Oh, I believe that your statement is completely accurate. I have witnessed the grinding of your teeth and clenching of your fists when said “guy” is around, I am sure that you can’t stand him. But do I think it is without exaggeration? Nein.
4.) “I can’t believe I said that. I literally can’t speak English.” If that’s the case, how did you manage to form that sentence?
5.) “Miss, I couldn’t finish that paper. I literally had homework in all of my classes.” Again, please refer to #3. Also, I am aware that you have homework. It is, after all, school.
6.) “I am so sick. I’m literally going to die.” Well yes, you are. In fact, unless you are a vampire, certain specie of demon, zombie , or deity, then yes, you are going to die. And, please keep in mind that, according to mythology, YA novels, and Joss Whedon, there are ways to destroy all of the aforementioned creatures. Except deities. And I know for a fact that, in one particular Buffy episode, a god was killed by good ol’ Giles. Therefore, all mortal and many so-called immortal creatures are going to die. Now, are you going to die from this particular strain of the influenza virus? Maybe, but probably not.
7. “Yeah, I think people will come to this party. I mean, I literally have 1,242 followers on Twitter.” Boomtown! You got it! Congratulations, you have managed to correctly utilize the adverb “literally.” There it is, on your Twitter profile, your number of followers. It is, indeed, a fact. What bothers me is that you are thirty-five and feel the need to point out the number of followers you have on Twitter.
I will mention that the Dictionary.com entry goes on to say that many have begun to employ the use of “literally” when they mean “virtually” and the use of “literally” to mean “virtually” is now commonplace. The authors also state that this used in “all but the most carefully edited writing.”
I applaud those careful editors.
P.S. I will be back tomorrow with a soundtrack to Identified: The Maya Price Story and an awesome promo for my friend Belle Whittington’s Cicada series.