Opinion

Start boycotting the word, literally

When I heard someone say, “He literally bit my head off,” I did a double take so fast that my skull nearly wrenched free of my vertebrae.

Yet she stood there whole. Clearly, her head had not literally been bitten off. I might be excused for my misunderstanding, considering that “literally” originally meant the opposite of figuratively; that is, exact, or reflective of reality.

The word “literally” once served as a border between statements and exaggerations. It could have been employed within the probably true declaration that “She spent the whole day at the DMV” to distinguish it from the likely metaphorical “She spent the whole day waiting in line for the bathroom.”

But the word is now abused by people wanting to  be heard above the hyperbole dominating casual speech. Everyone seems to have 10 tons of homework nowadays. It becomes easier to tune out these exaggerations.

So, now you make outrageous claims summarizing your life’s situations and nobody seems to care. What do you do? Well, tack on the word “literally,” and now others will realize that you have something to say. Right?

Not really. As it has become assimilated into common speech, “literally” has become its own exaggeration. It screams from within a sentence like a toddler in the throes of a tantrum in the toy section of Target, demanding attention, but saying nothing of value.

Well, relatively speaking, of course, I have personally found it quite valuable to hear someone say that they’re literally going to take a 100-hour nap when they get home. It cheered me up immensely. I understand that people make mistakes, and have no problem with the word’s deliberate employment in the service of humor.

But things are getting out of hand. Soon, another word will go the way of “legit” and entirely lose its meaning. It’s a thought that has more than once given me a full-fledged anxiety attack.

And yes, I really do mean that literally.

 

Alexa Langen is a sophomore majoring in creative writing.

February 5, 2014

Reporters

Alexa Langen


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Either the Miami Hurricanes get a collective adrenaline rush from heart-palpitating fourth quarters, ...

Mark Richt is not overly concerned with depth. Not when the eighth-ranked Miami Hurricanes (6-0, 4-0 ...

After jumping three spots from No. 10 to No. 7 last week in the Amway Coaches Poll (one spot better ...

University of Miami weak-side linebacker Michael Pinckney is definitely old-school Miami Hurricane. ...

The question came straight at Ahmmon Richards, like a tight spiral. And this time, he was locked in. ...

Univeristy of Miami’s Wynwood Art Gallery holds its annual faculty exhibition featuring thought-prov ...

From a game simulating how whales navigate to a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, the U showcased some of ...

A new mobile game called Blues and Reds, now available worldwide, aims to help researchers study int ...

A major Lancet Commission report, a three-year project headed by UM’s Professor Felicia Knaul and co ...

With a $6.8 million NIH grant, the UM School of Nursing and Health Studies and FIU Robert Stempel Co ...

The Hurricanes grabbed four interceptions and another ACC victory as they defeated Syracuse, 27-19, ...

The Miami women's tennis team wrapped up play Sunday the ITA Southeast Regional Championships P ...

As a Hurricane Club member, you are invited to participate in the 25th Annual University of Miami Ha ...

Kolby Bird had a career-high 21 kills, but the Hurricanes dropped a five-set battle to Notre Dame on ...

The Miami soccer team recognized its four seniors Sunday afternoon and then dropped a hard-fought 2- ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.