Literally now literally means figuratively

I am surprised that all the grammarians let this one slip by without ranting. A few weeks ago The Merriam-Webster dictionary added the definition “in effect: virtually”

It is not marked as informal either.

I [del] literally[/del] ,[del]figuratively[/del], literally can’t believe it.

I don’t think of myself as a hard core prescriptivist, but this one bothers me a bit.

Merriam-Webster are whores.

Not news. Been that way for years.

Nobody cares what the dictionary says

they’re not the boss of English


This degradation of the English language literally makes my head explode.

Not sure why you’re focused on that particular instance of linguistic mutilation. Pretty soon “would of/could of/should of” will be taught as proper English, my next car’s service manual will tell me how to replace the break rotors, and people who employ scare quotes for emphasis will no longer be laughed at.

What exactly do you think figuratively means? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not “not really”. The phrase you are looking for is general intensifier or hyperbole and it’s the same as words like actually, truly, really, positively and absolutely.

Next to go is the proper use of the apostrophe. Soon all plurals will end in 's. Some say this apocolypse has already arrived.

It doesn’t matter what any of us think. It has been used that for literally years and the dictionary’s job is to record it. I don’t like it, but there are a lot of things I don’t like but I don’t blame the newspapers for reporting. Reporting only what your listeners want to hear leads to Fox “news”.

It is not, as the thread title says, “Literally now literally means figuratively” but rather that some dictionary now reports this fact.

So, a couple weeks?

Shouldn’t that be apostrolypse?

I’m pretty sure I read somewhere recently that it’s been used to mean “virtually” for centuries. Can’t find it right now though.

I suspect that if you look hard enough you can find examples of most words being misused or misspelled hundreds of years ago. That doesn’t make them magically correct.

Just heard (again) the use of homogenius for homogenous on Public Radio.

It’s killing me radioactively.

Doesn’t make the Internet pedants magically correct either.

I’ve literally literally always found this gripe about English usage very annoying. If someone other than the Headless Horseman says to you that “my head literally exploded”, it’s pretty damn obvious that they are using hyperbole.

And I don’t know how to do the searches, but I’d bet some pretty small amounts that it’s been in use in that fashion for at least longer than the Internet has been around (which I blame for needless nitpicking demands that words be used only as defined in the dictionary).

Nobody ever uses “literally” to mean figuratively and the dictionary you quote is not suggesting that they do. (Mind you, “in effect: virtually” seems to me to be an absolutely terrible characterization of the well established, idiomatic, non-literal meaning of “literally”.)

The OED has been reporting this as a definition for years, with cites going back to 1769.

The meaning of words change over time and the language changes any way it damn pleases. You can piss and moan about it, but you might as well tell the tide not to come in.

The problem is that misuse of the word literally creates a void in our language. What word will we now use to express the concept that the word is supposed to convey?