#687 – Literally

I saw many heads literally explode on the internet recently after someone pointed out dictionaries listing 2 contrasting definitions for “literally”. It’s entertaining because contranyms are not something new that was invented on tumblr 2 years ago. It’s literally been like this for hundreds of years.

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16 thoughts on “#687 – Literally”

  1. kingklash says:

    If you go to sites like FARK, you will find people who have turned ‘sploding people’s heads into a virtual art form.

  2. Reavenk says:

    I literally don’t know what word to literally mean literally anymore.

  3. Sam says:

    That is literally the best comeback to that one xkcd comic strip, about the guy going around pointing out peoples “faulty” use of literally

  4. Nazi says:

    Why would it be “virtually”? It should be “figuratively”.

    1. Person says:

      It metaphorically doesn’t matter.

  5. infrapinklizzard says:

    Most dictionaries of today are of the “we describe the language as it is used” camp, rather than “here is the correct usage of the language” camp.
    Just because it is in a dictionary doesn’t mean it’s right — it may just mean that there are a lot of people using it inaccurately.

    Note that there’s a slight but important difference between inaccurate and incorrect. Hopefully dictionaries will never admit [your = a contraction of you are] into their lexicon.

    1. Prior Semblance says:

      How language is used defines what is and isn’t accurate, stuff that random people wrote down hundreds of years ago doesn’t really mean anything if most people ignore it.

  6. Sam says:

    I literally didn’t care about people misusing literally until I noticed dictionaries doing it. Curators of knowledge should know better. At least I think they should… but I guess I’m not a curator of knowledge now am I?

    1. Drakey says:

      So the fact that that’s a common use definition isn’t knowledge? What is it, then? Is it a sandwich? Are common use definitions sandwiches?

      1. bitflung says:

        common use definitions that explicitly contradict the original definition are “linguistic blasphemy”.

        as an anti-theist engineer, it took a lot for me to come up with that term.

        still, it matters to ME; not this particular instance of linguistic blasphemy, but the concept in general. Did you know:
        – there is no 4G anywhere on earth today, but every cell carrier claims to sell it?
        – Sprint and Verizon have NEVER had a 3G network (still don’t!), yet have been “selling” 3G service for years
        – etc etc

        terms need to be defined so we can actually communicate. if i start claiming my sandwich is a “4G” phone, wouldn’t you hate me for it? and if i somehow tainted the common vernacular such that MY definition “took over”, what would YOU have to say in order to talk about ACTUAL phones?

        you: “my phone isn’t working well, i think i need a new one”
        other guy: “strange; maybe try a little mayonnaise”?

  7. Dan Genesis says:

    Yep. See. Language changes. For example, a Conservative is not really someone who is opposed to change of any sort, let alone somebody who wants to turn the clock back to an earlier era. That is a reactionary, and such people are actually quite rare nowadays. But that’s the general image associated with the term now.

  8. Switchlord says:

    This is all utterly ridiculous…

  9. d. says:

    Language purism is just a way for socially inept people to feel smart and superior to others. Languages change and evolve as they are used, except for dead languages like eg. latin or Cobol.

    People who get all pissy because other people “don’t use words right” need to get over themselves, because language is basically just a contract – we assign meanings to words by consensus, and without that contract and consensus, all words are just meaningless noise.

  10. Utuy says:

    What does it even mean anymore??? D:

  11. Geoff says:

    I think the real question is why people feel compelled to use an adverb in such situations in the first place?

  12. Until they die, languages will inevitably change. Read something written just 100 years ago and you’ll see syntactic AND semantic differences. Chaucer is *literally* illegible now! 😉

    Languages evolve as the cultures that use them do.

    And to those continually arguing about the proper usage of the word “literally” I say this: remember that words aren’t always meant as literally as they’re defined. Don’t forget about irony and exaggeration.

    Of course I do still sometimes get annoyed when I see it incorrectly used, but I’ve stopped being a pedantic jerk about it. The legions of irate grammar nerds continually complaining about it and correcting others will never stem the tide of that particular change.

    I think it’s best for us to focus our efforts toward combating the grotesque and shamefully common error of people misusing “it’s”, “they’re”, “you’re”, and their homophones.

    Oh! I almost forgot to say what a great comic this is.


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