Things that Piss Me Off 2: Literally

I’ve decided there’s probably enough material out there to start running “Things that Piss Me Off” as a regular feature.  I’m going to retcon Friday’s PHP niggle as “Things that Piss Me Off 1”, so today’s entry is number 2.

A quick google has revealed that I’m not alone in being pissed off by this. There is even a blog dedicated to “tracking abuse of the word ‘literally’” (apparently it happens even in works by respected authors, I mean come on!)

“It is bad enough to exaggerate but to affirm the truth of the exaggeration is intolerable.”

Ambrose Bierce, discussing the example sentence “His eloquence literally swept the audience from its feet.” in Write it right: A little blacklist of literary faults

I was reminded of this yesterday when one of those shitty “reality” TV shows was on.

OK, it was shipwrecked (it was Sunday, my other half was watching it and I was immobile due to recovering from some gentle exercise). The latest bint rejected from the island was being carried off in a boat, supposedly on her way home. When she began to suspect she wasn’t being taken home but to another island she claimed that, if her suspicions were confirmed, she “would literally die”.

As appealing as that prospect sounded my fear that she was just the latest in a long line of people abusing the word literally was confirmed when after a full week she had failed to live up to her promise. Qu’elle surprise!