"Literally" is not a plain emphatic adverb!

Why the hell has it become common for people to use “literally” just to be emphatic about something, rather than actually meaning something literally?

Last example I came across, someone was describing the Germans conquering France in 1940, and after describing the operational movements of the German army, they said “The Germans literally pulled the carpet from under their feet.”

Wow. That must’ve been a really fucking huge carpet, that the whole fucking French army was standing on it. And it would’ve taken quite a bit of fucking horsepower to move that thing. Bravo to the Germans.

In that context, “to pull the carpet out from under someone’s feet” is a figure of speech. One might even say that it was used figuratively. As in, the opposite of literally.

That was just a random example, I’m coming across this all the time, people using “literally” to emphasize something. I’m going to - quite literally - start yelling at people.

Yeah, that’s a major pet peeve of mine, too. But then, I can be kind of anal sometimes. :wink:

Well, this thread literally blew me away.

To think that SenorBeef literally has a beef with this usage is just…just…too literal.

Ok. I’ll shut up now.

I know you guys hate this, but…


Wait, wait, so that’s pretty much using the word literally in a figurative sense? Oooh, the irony.

Bah. Just because it’s gained acceptance through frequent MISuse doesn’t mean it’s any less stupid. Same goes for “irregardless”.

I used to know a gal who used the word “virtually” thinking it was an all-purpose emphasis device. She’d roll her eyes at people and tell them to “virtually go away!” (This, mind you, was pre-widespread-internet.)

She never quite understood why many of us would snicker about it.

Huh. Well it’s still going to be a pet peeve of mine. That’s a case of something being so commonly wrong than it’s accepted into the dictionary… doesn’t really change it from being wrong, at least in my mind.

Hmmmmm…Prof. Paul Brians of Washington State agrees with the OP:

For myself, I think I’ll go have some virtual dinner.

So I guess we still haven’t resolved the conflict between those who feel the way this poster does, and those who feel that English is a living language, whose words and norms are defined by popular usage, huh?

You mean the conflict between those who are wrong and those who are right? Nope, it’s an eternal struggle. :stuck_out_tongue:

“They say ‘irregardless’ is a word, and we fall back. They end sentences with prepositions, and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here!” - Captain Jean-Luc Pedant

Well, at the very core, this whole trend started by a few people using this word incorrectly. Eventually, it rubbed off on others, and everyone started using the wrong term.

Of course, we all understand what they mean (usually), but it doesn’t change the fact that it all stems from some people being wrong.

Besides, it’s really a pain in the ass when a perfectly good word loses it’s actual meaning because people can’t be bothered to think about what they’re saying.

Yeah! I’m still ticked off that nobody ever uses the word ‘nice’ to mean ‘precise’ any more. Philistines have killed the language! Now it just means ‘polite’ or ‘pleasing’. They’ve robbed us of a great word, I tell you.

There’s a even worse travesty than that, though. Some words aren’t used at all any more! Personally, I’ve had it with this. I’m starting the Bring Back Thee, Thou, & Thy Society. Ever since they went out of use, English has been no better than dogs barking.

Damn right!

Well, BayleDomonthere is The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, though I probably wouldn’t call Ms. Nutter a savior of the English Language.

Well, heck, how do you think I even knew nice used to mean precise? :smiley:

And yet, somehow, we still get by with the degenerate English language without that obscure meaning.

Well, my point was - we have a nice word, literally, to mean exactly what it means, in that context. Now that it’s been perverted, we don’t.

Now we have to describe what we mean in sentences rather than use the accurate, concise word because it’s been corrupted by improper usage.

I should probably slow down on the posts, but I have a nasty habit of thinking of what I want to say after I hit Submit.

I really don’t think there’s much chance that we’ll lose the original meaning of the word ‘literal’, at any rate. The words literature, literary, etc. are all still in (fairly) common use, and most people are aware of all of literal’s current meanings. It’s fairly easy to tell when someone’s using literal as emphasis or not.

I will admit there’s times when slang bugs the hell out of me. When we were asked to describe different meanings of ambiguous sentences in a Linguistics course, someone thought that the word ‘hairy’ in “That sheepdog is too hairy to eat” meant…dangerous. Unstable. Or whatever the slang meaning of ‘hairy’ is. The professor didn’t even know it was slang until we told him. Now that was literally too silly for words.

Yup, major pet peeve of mine, as well. In fact, the very first thread I started on the SDMB, lo those many years ago, was about this very thing.