If you didn’t know it was thing, well it certainly is. If you thought you were the only person who noticed it, here’s both National Geographic and the Huffington Post proving an already existing conversation.
People use the word “literally” a lot.
From the sorority girl, to the dude who hates his boss, to 5 seconds into anything Kourtney Kardashian has to say, the word’s usage is at an all time high.
Unfortunately, that means its misuse is at an all time high as well. At least that’s what sites like the two above would have us thinking.
When reading the pieces, I found them over-pitched with some newfound spirit for 5th grade English, with writers hackling on about the distinction between literal events and figurative ones. “When something literally happens, that means it actually happens,” says Zoë Triska of Huffington Post. The death of journalism at its finest.
Well Zoë, I don’t think that most people unwittingly confuse the word literally with meaning anything other than “actual.” I also don’t think Google’s amended definition of the word is blasphemous to our language; it’s simply them showing the world – yet again – how much more forward-thinking they are as a cult of know-hows, and perhaps how much better they are at understanding us than we are.
Google’s been leading such a vision for years now on the digital technology platform, but isn’t that the only platform? It’s definitely the only one that matters, since you wouldn’t be reading this if it were on paper.
Nothing has ever been more accessible than now. As a result, we’re an impatient culture. Whether it’s complaining about our shitty Wi-Fi or searching for news of when the new iPhone is coming out (even though the new one just came out), people use their idle time doing everything other than waiting. It’s serious enough to make In-N-Out Burger feel like purgatory when waiting for them to call #67 when they’ve just called #58. Huh?
In a world of EDM, Molly, and the most visually stellar music festivals we’ve ever seen, we need our language to match all the stimuli. That being said, I think that when someone utters “literally,” it’s not because they’re ignorant to the denoted meaning, it’s because we’re all products of the anxiety created by the winsome culture around us; an anxiety we must welcome, given there are no signs of us slowing down.
We crave things and the words to describe them. Yes, this is human nature, but things such as social media have certainly given texture to that nature. Mundane posts get overlooked, so why wouldn’t such be the same in colloquial conversation? Why wouldn’t a word like “literally” and the actual serve as a toolkit for relating the cool, the annoying, the frustrating, and all other passions?
It’s funny that the writers at our most celebrated information outlets seem to have no concern for these questions, and would rather pull out their dictionaries than set a lens on our culture.
Not that I expected anything different from the best to start with.