Monday, March 2, 2009

Ur guide 2 English, pt. 1: literally

I have noticed a number of my fellow "netizens" misusing common words and phrases, and as some kind of grammar authoritarian, I feel the need to put some of these common misapplications of English to pasture, like so many abused horses. I think a blog post or two should clear things up for you all, my dear fellow internet users.

We'll start what may be the most commonly misused word on all the internet.

Literally. Definition: "figuratively" or "very." If you want to say something is like, really intensely the way it is, then use the word "literally." For instance, if your head is hurting you very badly, don't simply say that; go for the $5 word and say "my head is literally exploding!" If your head has actually exploded, then you won't be able to express yourself anyway, so there should be no confusion about this one. Baby has pointed out that the British are particularly adept at using the word "literally" in the proper, emphatic sense. This makes sense, considering that the British invented English and are naturally experts in its proper use.

Some purists insist that the word only be used when one is trying to convey that something that is usually referred to metaphorically is actually happening in a non-metaphorical sense. For instance: if a person's flesh actually changes hue when he covets another's property, he could be said to be "literally green with envy." This kind of precision of language is BOORING and should be avoided if you are the kind of person who has an uninhibited, fun and unconventional attitude (e.g. a Pibb Xtra drinker).

When to avoid: 9-1-1 calls.

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