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

UM offensive coordinator Dan Enos on Monday addressed the quarterback situation in this piece, culle ...

University of Florida big man Keith Stone, a 6-8 and 254-pound Deerfield Beach native, is heading cl ...

The Miami Hurricanes are primed to have another nice weekend in the NFL Draft, at least according to ...

UM offensive coordinator Dan Enos already has displayed a penchant for giving thoughtful, substantiv ...

And you thought the quarterback race was hot before. After reviewing the University of Miami spring ...

Yvette Soler, B.M. ’96, better known as Tigrilla Gardenia, connects her music engineering background ...

Preservation Week, from April 21 to April 27, is focused on highlighting the importance of learning ...

There are numerous ways to connect with the University of Miami during the two-day tech conference o ...

A symbol of both French heritage and Catholicism, Paris’ 850-year-old gothic cathedral was gutted by ...

The Division of Student Affairs hosted a reception to present campus-wide awards and scholarships to ...

The Canes are ranked for the second consecutive week, cracking the top 25 in two different polls rel ...

Nearly 10,000 fans got a glimpse of things to come at Camping World Stadium ...

Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey, Jr. have been selected to receive the University of Miami Sports Hall of ...

Miami Athletics has become one of the leaders nationally in developing its sports psychology departm ...

Images from the University of Miami women's tennis team's run to the ACC Championship semi ...

TMH Twitter
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.