Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I'm not exaggerating!

At least not when it comes to the word literally.

I think we all see this word misused often; in the worst misuse, I've heard people say "Literately." [cringe]

The word means actually or without exaggeration. If you use it as merely an intensifier, you are probably misusing it. An example is "I was so angry, I literally saw red." Unless you actually had a crimson pall come across your vision, you didn't "literally" see red. However, if you say, "I was so angry that I burst a blood vessel in my eye; I literally saw red," that would be appropriate.

Make sure that if you use literally, you are presenting an accurate approximation of what really happened or what you really felt, without exaggeration. "Literally" is not meant to be used as a metaphor, but as a true representation of events or feelings.

6 comments:

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I applaud this entry, literally [doing the polite clap] :o)

Big Mark 243 said...

Dag, I was going to use the blood vessel line because I have seen red a few times in my life!!

Big Mark 243 said...

Actually, it isn't 'red' then, more like a cloud. So I guess I wouldn't have said I 'literally' say red!

Lori said...

I like this. I've been irritated by similar misuses.

ADB said...

The word 'actually' is actually quite often misused as well - like 'literally' more as a stopgap, buying time to think, than for anything else, actually.

Liz said...

Literally I take words and reach beyond their usual or primary sense and seek allegory to express a meaning that might lie hidden in the prosaic held within the mere letters that formed one meaning for one word.