According to Google, Literally Literally Means Not Literally

I learned today via IO9 that Google has made it as official as Google can make things: “Literally” now means “literally” but also the opposite.

Actually, perhaps I should ask whether literally now literally means “not literally,” or whether literally now still means “literally,” but means it figuratively as well as literally.

When people misuse literally in this way, it figuratively drives me round the bend…

  • Jack Collins

    What about “totally” for things that are not total, or “finally” for things that are not final? “Terribly” for things that are not terrible? “Practically” for things that are not practical? The hyperbolic use of adverbs is awfully common, but not commonly considered awful, except in this one case.

  • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson
    • Ian

      Quite. It’s worth considering that the OED traces this usage (Def. I.1.c,
      which they note is one of the most common) all the way back to 1769. I
      think when people have been “misusing” a word in the same way for 250
      years, we can just start calling it “use.”

    • http://en.gravatar.com/jkgayle J. K. Gayle

      In your linked slate post, there’s a correction at the bottom:

      “Further context reveals that Louisa May Alcott was using literally literally.”

      Of course in English it still makes enough sense to write:

      “Further context reveals that Louisa May Alcott was literally using literally literally.”

      And now we have three in one.

      • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson

        you just literally blew my mind!

  • Jeff Carter

    Dispensationalists around the world are celebrating their vindication.

  • Casey G.

    Every word used figuratively is used against it’s literal definition, though some get confused when word used is, “literally.”


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