I’m coming out and publicly stating right now that this post isn’t really about grammar. I guess if I wanted to tie it into the topic I could say it’s about adverbs. One adverb in particular. The adverb that specifically, particularly, completely, wholeheartedly grinds my gears.
That adverb is “literally.”
There was a time when “literally” meant something. We could use the word as a way to express reality when something happened just as a figure of speech implies, a synonym for “actually.” Back in the day (when “literally” was a strong word and everything was beautiful and nothing hurt) people might “literally eat the whole thing” or “literally wait for hours” in dramatic situations.
Today, however, the word has literally been ruined.
Want to make a point? What to sound dramatic? Want to have your voice heard? Throw in a “literally”!
No line at Chiptole? “I literally peed my pants.”
Barista messed up your order? “I literally want to hurt someone.”
Stubbed your toe? “I literally am so done I can’t even omg what is life.”
Perhaps the scariest thing in the age of “literally” abuse is how the word somehow slips into your vocabulary unnoticed and suddenly you too are misusing “literally.” So many of my friends “literally can’t” and “are literally so done” round-the-clock that I have found myself slipping out an “I literally cried” here in there, regardless of whether or not tears were produced in actuality.
Figuratively, I want to crawl under a rock when I hear people (or myself) misusing “literally.” Yet it’s something so ingrained in our language now that I think we’ve hit the point of no return, and that we need to just give up the word (and everything it once stood for) for good.
We’re literally so done.