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Edited 8 months, 7 days ago

Is it okay to use the word 'literally' for emphasis? (286 votes)

Yes 26%
No 69%
*Just show me the results* 6%

This is based on the second definition:

Yes, this image is real, go try it yourself!

#1 Posted by Fallen189 (4921 posts) -

No, I fucking hate how this has become a global thing

#2 Posted by Chaser324 (5967 posts) -

No. It should be used to underscore that something hard to believe is in fact true.

Moderator
#3 Posted by jimmyfenix (3682 posts) -

Mr CM punk will tell you.

#4 Edited by SpaceInsomniac (3329 posts) -

No, and people who think otherwise can figuratively go fuck themselves. :)

#5 Posted by PerfidiousSinn (716 posts) -

People who use "literally" for emphasis are intellectually inferior and should be treated as such.

#6 Edited by audioBusting (1305 posts) -

Yes, but not only for emphasis. It should be inherently literal.

(My guess is that the definition comes from the fact that people use the word that way (wrongly). Let's not exacerbate the problem here.)

#7 Edited by Zornack (138 posts) -

#8 Edited by MattyFTM (14244 posts) -

Sure. That has been a meaning of the word for hundreds of years. It isn't a new phenomenon. The OED lists the first use of it in that context being from 1769:

1769 F. Brooke Hist. Emily Montague IV. ccxvii. 83 He is a fortunate man to be introduced to such a party of fine women at his arrival; it is literally to feed among the lilies.

There are lots of words that have multiple, conflicting meanings. It's called an Auto-antonym. They're super common. That's the English language for you.

Moderator
#9 Posted by audioBusting (1305 posts) -

@zornack: Wow, I never knew that it had such a history. My feelings on the word literally turned around (maybe it's not as bad if it is used in an obviously figurative context?)

#10 Posted by EVO (3782 posts) -

Yeah, it's okay. But you sound like a douche.

#11 Posted by phampire (263 posts) -

Language changes with use, words and meanings will evolve over time. It's aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive! I think it's cool.

#12 Edited by tescovee (346 posts) -

#13 Posted by SunBroZak (844 posts) -

Like, I don't mind. Like, there's much worse, like, words that people can overuse, like .

#14 Edited by Brendan (7520 posts) -

@phampire: Language is being led by dumb people. Intelligent people are not changing language to make it more effective. Words are losing meaning as people who lack strong communication skills misuse them.

#15 Posted by Jimbo (9710 posts) -

Like, I don't mind. Like, there's much worse, like, words that people can overuse, like .

Like?

#16 Edited by White_Silhouette (468 posts) -

Ah gotta love the English language. Where if enough people use a word wrong it becomes correct.

#17 Edited by EXTomar (4125 posts) -

It is the goofy nature of The English Language. I still consider that "literally" and "figuratively" as different things. If someone says "Soandso literally exploded!" then I just recognize they used it wrong because they really didn't explode. And I am not going to correct them since I understood what they wanted to say.

#18 Posted by Humanity (7965 posts) -

You can literally use it for anything!

#19 Posted by Veektarius (4148 posts) -

I prefer 'seriously' in that context.

#20 Edited by Tennmuerti (7723 posts) -

At the same time this perversion has opened up fun possibilities for specifying:

"no dude that building is literally on fire, and i mean literally-literally, actually on fire"

Which I find entertaining.

#21 Edited by Video_Game_King (34616 posts) -

No. It should be used to underscore that something hard to believe is in fact true.

Isn't that exactly what it means to use it for emphasis? Shouldn't the word "literally" be used to describe situations that actually happened as opposed to metaphorically? (Or something like that; I'm not good with definitions.)

#22 Posted by Hockeymask27 (3667 posts) -

I just go with the context.

#23 Edited by chiablo (847 posts) -
#24 Edited by Chaser324 (5967 posts) -

@video_game_king said:

@chaser324 said:

No. It should be used to underscore that something hard to believe is in fact true.

Isn't that exactly what it means to use it for emphasis? Shouldn't the word "literally" be used to describe situations that actually happened as opposed to metaphorically? (Or something like that; I'm not good with definitions.)

Sure. I guess I was addressing the highlighted definition more than the question in the title of this thread.

I don't have an issue with it being used for emphasis, but I don't think it should be used as exaggeration.

Moderator
#25 Posted by mlarrabee (2760 posts) -

It's becoming more accepted because there are a couple of instances of classical writers using it that way, and because, like "flammable," the uneducated always get their way.

No.

#26 Posted by TobbRobb (4408 posts) -

You use it to emphasize that something is literally true.

#27 Posted by SeanFoster (837 posts) -

Language evolves. People from 1913 would probably laugh at the way we talk today.

#28 Posted by MildMolasses (3194 posts) -

@mattyftm said:

Sure. That has been a meaning of the word for hundreds of years. It isn't a new phenomenon. The OED lists the first use of it in that context being from 1769:

1769 F. Brooke Hist. Emily Montague IV. ccxvii. 83 He is a fortunate man to be introduced to such a party of fine women at his arrival; it is literally to feed among the lilies.

There are lots of words that have multiple, conflicting meanings. It's called an Auto-antonym. They're super common. That's the English language for you.

Yep. I'm not so sure why people have such a hard time with words have different meanings in different contexts. Or that languages evolved over time, but they do. Get over it people.

#29 Edited by MrJorOwe (267 posts) -

Not at all, just listened to an episode of WTF with Marc Maron where Ben Stiller said it probably once a minute. Just stop.

#30 Posted by MariachiMacabre (6938 posts) -

Only if you're Rob Lowe.

#31 Edited by Voidoid (106 posts) -

I absolutely understand the importance of accepting language as dynamic and not being a weird reactionary jerk about it. That said, I find every statement where the word 'literally' can be applied to a figurative expression tends to be sufficiently hyperbolic on its own. In a sentence like "I am so happy I could literally explode" literally is redundant and inelegant. Indeed, the fact that people feel they need a word to exaggerate their exaggerations says some unpleasant things about modern western society.

#32 Posted by MikkaQ (10225 posts) -

I literally don't understand how figuratively retarded some people are when they don't get that words can have more than one meaning depending on the context.

People who correct grammar/vocabulary while misunderstanding it themselves are the literal worst. Interpret that how you will.

#33 Posted by AlexW00d (6062 posts) -
#34 Edited by SoldierG654342 (1681 posts) -

@audiobusting said:

Yes, but not only for emphasis. It should be inherently literal.

#35 Posted by pyromagnestir (3962 posts) -

I literally have no problem with it.

#36 Posted by Sploder (917 posts) -

Etymology, bitches

#37 Posted by redcouch (4 posts) -

This could very well be the point where Google begins its decline.

#38 Posted by phrosnite (3517 posts) -

Yes.

#39 Posted by MariachiMacabre (6938 posts) -
#40 Posted by Sinusoidal (1155 posts) -

As long as "definately" never, ever, ever, ever becomes a legitimate spelling, the rest of the English language can do whatever the fuck it wants with itself.

#41 Edited by gkhan (360 posts) -

Here's a small dialog about the arguments and counter-arguments for using literally to refer to things that didn't actually happen:

Anti-Literally: That's not the correct usage of the word. It's not what the word means!

Pro-Literally: Ok, then, can you give me an example of it being used correctly?

AL: Ok, sure, how about: "When I heard the news, I literally jumped up and down", if you actually jumped up and down when you heard the news

PL: But that's not what the word means, it means 'by the letter'. If we're going by the etymology, the only acceptable usage would be in something like "The text was translated literally". Clearly the definition has already expanded from it's original meaning, so why is this meaning so wrong?

AL: But literally have been used that way forever, but using it in this way is new, and only young and stupid people do it.

PL: I refer you to the Oxford English Dictionary, which notes that the word has been used that way since 1796. It's hardly new.

AL: Yeah, but only by stupid people who can't communicate well.

PL: Well, then, lets consult one Mr. Charles Dickens. He wrote the following passage in Nicholas Nickelby:

He was scarce fifty, perhaps, but so emaciated as to appear much older. His features presented the remains of a handsome countenance, but one in which the embers of strong and impetuous passions were easier to be traced than any expression which would have rendered a far plainer face much more prepossessing. His looks were very haggard, and his limbs and body literally worn to the bone, but there was something of the old fire in the large sunken eye notwithstanding...

We can assume here that the man in question was not a walking skeleton, and therefore his limbs would not actually have been worn to the bone.

AL: Screw Dickens, he was a terrible writer and a darn Englishman to boot. No great American writers would write like that.

PL: Ok then, how about this:

And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth.

That's Mark Twain (and "Tom" is "Tom Sawyer"). Are you really suggesting that Charles Dickens and Mark Twain are "stupid people" who have problems communicating? Are you really suggesting that you have a better grasp of the English language than Charles Motherfuckin' Dickens?

AL: I don't care what you say! It's a rule, a rule of language, that you can't use literally that way!

PL: Why is it a rule? Who told you it was a rule? Was it an esteemed linguist, backed up by Ph.D.s? I guarantee you it wasn't, because actual linguists think this whole debate is stupid. It is clearly, and obviously, ok to use "literally" this way. Perhaps it was some school marm who traumatized you with her red pen when you innocently used English the way it's supposed to be used. But what the hell does she know, what makes her an expert? Someone told her this rule as well at some point, and just like you, she didn't question it.

The truth is, there is no "Council of English" which hands down pronouncements about what is right and what is wrong. There are rules of English, of course there are, but they're not written down in some book somewhere, inviolable for all time. The rules of English change as the change them, and new words come in to being and we adapt to them. This word has had this meaning since the late 18th century, and it was popularly used all through the 19th century. It is a standard part of English.

It is interesting, in fact, to note that this prohibition against using this word this way doesn't appear until the 20th century. Someone just made it up that this was wrong, out of thin air.

AL: Ok, so maybe you're right. Maybe there isn't any logic to this rule: the original meaning of literally have been long lost, and we've been using this word this way for hundreds of years. But don't you agree that it sounds very silly?

PL: No, not necessarily, I think it sounds perfectly natural. But in any case, what does that matter? Lots of things sound silly, that doesn't mean that they're grammatically or semantically wrong. If you don't want to sound silly, stop writing in a silly sounding way, but don't blame "literally" for it.

AL: Fine. I give up. You win.

PL: Damn straight.

#42 Edited by aspaceinvader (250 posts) -

@jimmyfenix said:

Mr CM punk will tell you.

lol that literally fucking funny to watch, figurativley speaking

#43 Edited by I_Stay_Puft (2599 posts) -

I literally just broke my keyboard with hard caps. Why nobody has given CM Punk his own PBS Kids show yet is beyond me.

#44 Edited by cmblasko (1006 posts) -

NOPE.

#45 Posted by MooseyMcMan (9765 posts) -

No. NO.

NO.

Online
#46 Posted by FreakAche (2938 posts) -

Language evolves. People getting all uppity about spelling, grammar, and word meanings on the internet has become the most ridiculous trend ever.

#47 Posted by AlexW00d (6062 posts) -

@mariachimacabre: ...it wasn't a 'burn'. It's exactly how these things happen.

#48 Posted by OldGuy (1431 posts) -

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#49 Posted by SenorMartinez (32 posts) -

I wasn't aware this was such an old thing, but I'm still really against it. Though I can't guarantee that I have never used it myself.

#50 Edited by TehPickle (386 posts) -

Mr CM punk will tell you.

I'm tickled pink. Thanks for that!