Literally, schmliterally

August 16, 2013

Guys, it's okay: the new definition of "literally" is not actually new.

It's also not even a little bit of a problem, even though the newer definition contradicts the more accepted one. People have been linking to Stephen Fry's helpful criticism of the language police, among others. I still like the one by Josh Kamensky I came across last year, a response to David Cross's unfunny (even for him) bit on "literally." In short: language policing is about status anxiety. Meanwhile, language itself stays busy being about, you know, communicating. Also changing.

Besides, when it comes to "literally," is definition two really more annoying than the overuse of definition one? I think I'm with Martha Gill: the best solution here is to just avoid the word altogether for a while. I'm sure another one will inspire more pointless outrage soon enough.