I’ve tried, I really have. When Webster and other dictionaries, announced that the second definition of the word “literally” means “figuratively” – “My head literally exploded” – I had some difficulty with that. Still I tried to shoehorn this new meaning into my vocabulary. Alas, I have failed.
“Literally” served me well. When I wrote, “LOL, literally,” this meant that an audible chuckle erupted from me, not just that I found it quite funny.
I noticed that Arthur@AmeriNZ is not bothered by this. He says, correctly, “English is constantly evolving and changing, and it always has been. New words enter usage and old ones die out.” And so I noted at the time that it didn’t bother me. But the more I thought on it, the more I was irritated by the change.
So while using literally to mean figuratively may be OK (for some), what do I use when I REALLY, REALLY mean literally? How can I make this clear to the reader/listener?
Therefore, I must sadly conclude that the word “literally” has been rendered useless to me. If it doesn’t mean one thing, but rather the thing OR its opposite, then it doesn’t mean anything at all.
Thus, I must purge it from my vocabulary – literally. And by “literally,” I mean the first, original meaning of the term.
Goodness, I’ll miss you, Literally. You were just the right word to convey my feelings. Your cousins Exactly, Precisely, Actually, Really, Truly are just not the same, especially Really, which has attitude: “Oh, REALLY?” Doesn’t sound sincere. I’ll probably start using Actually, but it doesn’t have the same linguistic heft.
Goodbye, old friend.
Stolen from me, but with a new paragraph.