This Literally Means War, Figuratively

January 20, 2014

Humor

I can be a word snob; I admit that.  But I am also a reasonable man.  When things reach such a crisis level as this, immediate diplomatic action is required, lest things break out in to total chaos.

I am, of course, referring to Google’s addition to its definition of “literal” as “used for emphasis or to express strong feeling while not being literally true.”  In other words, “literal: meaning, you know, not.”  And this is literally insane.  Word purists have been driven to the edge (figuratively) for years by people exclaiming that they “literally exploded” with anger, or “literally crapped [their] pants” in fear without it now being validated by Google, thank you very much.

But, recognizing that language is a living, fluid thing, and wanting to avoid physical conflict (because, let’s face it, the Word Snobs are probably going down hard in that one), I offer the following compromise between the Word Snobs, and the Colloquialists:

Oh, God, really? Ugh, oof.  Yeesh.  Fine.  Put it on your car.  Yep, right on the paint.

Oh, God, really? Ugh, oof. Yeesh. “Everyday WHAT is a gift?” Never mind. Put it on your car. Yep, right on the paint.

“Literally”I enjoy irony as much as the next red-blooded American, but having a word that means absolute truth meaning something else is too much.  Besides, it’s already juggling two meanings: literal, and something which occurs in literature. This one’s ours.  Google, do your part.

Using “everyday” when you mean “every day”:  Yours.  Take it.  Enjoy.  Advertise that your restaurant has “specials everyday” with impunity.

“Could Care Less”: Tricky one.  Because if you say “I could care less” about something, then you do, in fact, care.  This one’s ours, because it’s so easy to say correctly, but with the exemption that if it’s said with clear, prima facie sarcasm, it’s acceptable.

“Affect vs. Effect”:  This one’s easy – we eliminate “affect” and just use “effect” instead.  Everyone’s happy, except for people who refuse to follow the new rule.  Also people with quirky affectations might take umbrage, but they’ll just have to cry into their cravats, or dragon-headed canes, or shoulder-mounted ferrets, or whatever.

This may effect you, sir.

This may effect you, sir.

“Momentarily”: This one should go to the word snobs, but it’s been ruined by smugness.  The stewardess announces that the plane “should be landing momentarily,” and someone smirks and says, “Oh?  And what will it do after it’s landed for a moment?”  And looks around for, I don’t know, high fives?  So, you cost us this one, smirking airplane snob.

Confusing “its” and “it’s”: Ours.  Come on.  If you’re saying ‘it is’ or ‘it has’ there’s an apostrophe; otherwise, not.  This is a very simple rule.  Learn it.

“Expecially”: Are you under 8 years old?  Then fine.  Otherwise, it’s deportation for you.

*cough* For example… *cough*

*cough* For example… *cough*

Saying “nucular” instead of “nuclear”:  This one requires a middle-ground. You may say nucular, BUT, if you cannot say nuclear, you are not allowed access to or involvement with anything nuclear.

“Irregardless.”:  Ours. This is not a word.  No discussion.  People should be allowed to literally go ballistic when this gets said.

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Blog in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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122 Comments on “This Literally Means War, Figuratively”

  1. Vanessa-Jane Chapman Says:

    I struggled to read much beyond the literally thing because I’m furious about that! I couldn’t believe it, and so I searched on dictionary.com and they are doing it too! One of the options is “in effect; in substance; very nearly; virtually.” WTF? How long has this been going on and who authorised it? That’s what I want to know! And I most certainly COULD care less about that.

    Reply

  2. Cathy746books Says:

    So, does that mean that if everyone says something stupid often enough, it becomes true?? This does not bode well at all. soon we will be forced to say ‘That Is All’ after every statement we make. Where will this end??

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      And in a lot of cases it just takes time, and we all forget. Apparently when someone coined the term “electrocute” as a mash-up of “electrify” and “execute” people heard it with all the class and dignity of “chillax.” Now, no one thinks twice. Doesn’t bode well.

      Reply

  3. suzie81 Says:

    Irregardless annoys the hell out of me. Literally. ;)
    Great post!

    Reply

  4. 1pointperspective Says:

    This is all news to me. Let me see if I’ve got this right; some organization is rewriting the definitions in the dictionary? Hey, not for nothing, but I was still working on learning the original definitions. Now I’ll have to go back to page 1 and start over! To be honest, I couldn’t care less because I was only up to page 7 anyways.

    Reply

  5. becomingcliche Says:

    YES to the nuclear vs nucular especially! I grew up with in an area famous for nuclear technology, and it is CRAZY-MAKING to hear someone in the media mispronounce the word. ESPECIALLY when the crime is committed by someone with a string of advisers. If you cannot learn the proper pronunciation after six months with a staff of your own, I say impeachment!

    Reply

  6. Every Record Tells A Story Says:

    I bet you proof read this post a hundred times.
    I also get literally er, irritated by the misuse of apostrophe’s. (See what I did there?)

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      It was pretty anxiety-inducing. There’s always a few typos, but in this post it was going to completely ruin it. I was worried enough in the picture about “affect/effect” that people wouldn’t know I was intentionally mis-using the term.

      Reply

  7. Helena Hann-Basquiat Says:

    Don’t forget thusly or hopefully, darling. Bloody savages. By definition, if you cannot properly speak a language, nor successfully navigate its grammar, then you are literally illiterate.

    Reply

  8. Hippie Cahier Says:

    I am virtually beside myself in applauding your decision to draw a line in the sand. Really.

    Reply

  9. silkpurseproductions Says:

    I confess that each time I hear of a new word being added to the dictionary to include current language I often cringe. This new trend to adjust the meaning of a word saddens me. Proper language is just randomly being adjusted so that people who were to lazy to learn it correctly the first time around are comfortable.

    Reply

  10. speaker7 Says:

    I literally threw my “everyday is a gift” bumper sticker when I read that nonsense about literally. I blame reality television.

    Reply

  11. Snoring Dog Studio Says:

    Please do a regular grammar lesson, Byronic man – if I want some word learnin’ I also want to be entertained. And I was. But I fear the purity of my language. When “twerk” was added to a dictionary, I was momentarily blinded by rage.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Well, it’s always changing, so there’s no way to keep up. Personally, I say, “there’s myriad reasons…” which is correct, but so is “There are a myriad of reasons” and a lot of people who do one flip out at the sound of the other.

      Reply

  12. Marilyn Armstrong Says:

    Loose v. lose (Loose 5, Lose 1). Less V Fewer (count your victories). Number v Amount (ditto and ditto again). So many misconstrued words, so little time. Exasperated V exacerbated — What’s in a word anyhow?

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Good v. Well. “I’m feeling good!” “Excellent, all nerve endings fully functional,eh?”

      Reply

      • mid-life crisis Says:

        Is that like the Italian horse trainer who said ‘this horse no looka so good’ as it ran into a fence it didn’t see?

        Reply

      • Outlier Babe Says:

        To each their druthers, sir.

        I am good; I feel good today.==>I feel good.
        My sensitive right fingers feel textures well.==>I feel well.
        My numb left fingers feel textures badly.==>I feel badly.

        We’re sorting clear glass,
        Out from ice,
        Whoever’s fastest,
        Wins a prize.

        “I feel badly,
        My hands are numb,
        I feel bad,
        ‘Cause I can’t come.”

        “I feel well;
        My hands are fine;
        I feel good;
        That prize is mine.

        “I feel well”.
        Means touch is good;
        Your fingers feel
        Just what they should.

        “I feel good.”
        Means health’s at peak.
        (Or fingers work,
        But grammar’s weak.)

        (Now that I penned that, think I’ll copy it into a post on my blog.)
        Really enjoyed your post, which may irk you, given the above.
        That “literally” business can infuriate me, if I let it.

        Reply

  13. angeliquejamail Says:

    As long as we’re making a list, let’s not forget that “presently” means “soon.” It does not mean “at the present time.” I know it seems counter-intuitive. I don’t make the rules. (Though apparently Google thinks they can.)

    Reply

  14. Go Jules Go Says:

    “Supposably.” I worked with someone for 6 years who said, “Supposably.”

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      There was an English teacher where I work who said “expecially.” Of course, he also said poetry doesn’t really have deeper meaning, it’s whatever you want it to mean, so…

      Reply

  15. Don't Quote Lily Says:

    Could not be more disappointed in Google if I tried. I know each generation of humans tends to be more stupid than the last (seriously, can you imagine 50 years from now?), but I expected more from Google. For shame.

    Reply

  16. on thehomefrontandbeyond Says:

    so many words. so little time–

    Reply

  17. jbw0123 Says:

    Love it when the steward/ess says we will momentarily deplane. Is deplane a word oh Byronic one?

    Reply

  18. susielindau Says:

    We should all start grunting and pointing instead. I get so “fustrated” when some people “aks” me questions.

    Reply

  19. Sarah Day Says:

    NO! I am (literally) stunned. Why have I fought this battle all these years? Oh, damn fluid language!

    Reply

  20. JudahFirst Says:

    The Post-Modern era at it’s best: words no longer have ANY meaning. Or didn’t you get the memo?

    Irregardless…. its expecially annoying when my spell check still won’t except chimley.

    Reply

    • JudahFirst Says:

      P.S. My proof-reading brain was screaming as I typed the above! lol

      Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      That’s why I ignore most of what people say.

      “I told you not to open that door!”

      “Yeah, you ‘told’ me, but what are ‘words’? An artificial construct of guttural sounds to which you and I ascribe our personal meaning. And I heard you offer me waffles, which I am still waiting for.”

      Reply

      • JudahFirst Says:

        But you can’t ignore it – because even the people who say words have no meaning are saying something meaningful. “There’s a double meaning in that.” – Much Ado About Nothing

        Maybe it is all wind and none of it matters. But I write because I don’t believe that in the least. Words have POWER beyond our understanding of it. And so we will keep writing, speaking, listening … just maybe not ‘literally’. ;)

        Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comment.

        Reply

  21. Stratafied Says:

    Just for this post, I nominate you the official diplomatic representative of the word nerds. Go forth and make peace. And, since I’m a proper Amur’can, if diplomacy fails, please feel free to smite the opposing team while exploiting the benefits of diplomatic immunity.

    Reply

  22. battlewagon13 Says:

    When ever (or whenever) I have to use effect, I switch the word to impact just so I don’t have to figure out which one (or whichone) to use.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      When I’m trying to explain the difference between the two to my writing students, and they ask why there are two versions of the word, my response is basically, “No reason. Just to make things a little tougher.”

      Reply

  23. thesinglecell Says:

    I almost didn’t make it through this post due to word rage. Literally. No, really literally.

    Reply

  24. sarah9188 Says:

    When dictionaries add “twerk” and “selfie” to the lexicon, it isn’t surprising they’ve totally butchered the definition of “literally.” Still, this doesn’t keep me from literally throwing a temper tantrum about the grammar atrocities being committed.

    Reply

  25. rachelocal Says:

    There’s debate going on over at my blog regarding omelette versus omelet. I say it’s omelette.

    One of my pet peeves: who’s versus whose. Or any misuse of apostrophes.

    Reply

  26. Angie Pantazi Says:

    I agree with everythink you say, expecially the one about expecially! Youse is a triffic Word Snob.

    Reply

  27. Jackie Cangro Says:

    Using they’re, their and there correctly are my pet peeves. Come on, people.

    Reply

  28. George Hardwick Says:

    The intern who fudged the word literally in the dictionary is probably laughing his ass off. Particularly since they used the word literally to say that literally didnt necessarily mean literally.

    Reply

  29. Maggie O'C Says:

    Supposably, everyone knows these rules. But I could care less. It doesn’t effect me.

    Reply

  30. Twindaddy Says:

    I have, for years, been saying that a man who cannot properly pronounce the word nuclear shouldn’t be in charge of said weapons.

    Reply

    • Paul G. Eberlein Says:

      Maybe the answer is to use “nucular” to describe war-time and “nuclear” to describe peace-time use of atomic energy. That way, we can always tell the war-mongering morons from the intelligent peaceniks. Just a suggestion…

      Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I thought one of most nefarious/impressive things the republicans did during the Bush years is, when he wouldn’t say “nuclear,” ALL of the Republicans started saying nucular. Then once he was out of office, they stopped.

      Reply

  31. Elyse Says:

    What a great post, B-man! Its effective how you use these words everyday. Normally, I could care less what word snobs have to say. But I was literally blown away by how you did it. I am so glad you spend everyday teaching. You might just effect some changes!

    Ok. Now I need to throw iPad.

    Reply

  32. Paul G. Eberlein Says:

    Another addition to the “not a word” list: “perogative” instead of “prerogative.” I have even seen University professors screw this up, in writing no less! I guess Ph.D. really stands for “Ph*cking Dipsh*t.” But then, I couldn’t possible care any less about someone’s educational degree when they treat it more like an educational pedigree.

    Reply

    • Paul G. Eberlein Says:

      Oops…I meant “possibly”…no more reality TV for me…

      Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Ugh, I can’t stand it when people “name-drop” their degree. As if it’s a super-power, or card from the governor that says, “The holder of this card is right about everything, and knows your job better than you.”

      Reply

  33. Jen and Tonic Says:

    I used to work with someone who used to say things like, “This is lit-uh-rully the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten. I would lit-uh-rully marry it if I could. I’m serious, it’ll be the best thing you’ve ever eaten. Lit-uh-rully.”

    Needless to say I planted drugs in her desk, and called HR about it.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      And, of course, if they just dropped the “literally” it becomes a harmless affectation. I have lots of friends who claim things are the best ____ ever. But add the word “literally”? Now you’re just LYING.

      Reply

  34. BrainRants Says:

    People need to learn the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ especially should I ax them about it. Its important. Otherwise, I literally could not care less.

    Reply

  35. Taswegian1957 Says:

    Someone at Google must have read “The Hacker Diaries” that’s exactly how he used the word “literally”.http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/yesminister/

    Reply

  36. The World Is My Cuttlefish Says:

    Nooooo. We need (I need) to keep affect and effect. It’s not too much to ask (‘aks’) that people spell correctly.

    Reply

  37. jadorelamusique Says:

    This is SO fantastic. I figuratively pissed myself laughing. And then I literally got a pain in my side from the laughter. Keep ‘em coming ;D

    Reply

  38. geralynwichers Says:

    I have to admit that I got hung up on “I could care less”. I saw what was wrong, and then sat here going “I could care less… I could care less… Oh! I COULDN’T care less!”

    That IS right, isn’t it?

    Reply

  39. pegoleg Says:

    “aks” Dear sweet, baby Jesus, let me never hear “aks” again in my life.

    Reply

  40. ChocolateHoney Says:

    Hahaha …i loved this.

    Reply

  41. Adrea Says:

    I literally laughed out loud when I momentarily stopped by your post. I could indeed care less about these things because people are stupid and lazy and it must stop. Regardless it was an entertaining read. Especially because you have such a way with words.

    Reply

  42. Mal Content Says:

    I remember watching a news report about how the melting polar ice caps are a way to measure increased global temperature. The newscaster said: “The polar ice caps are LITERALLY a canary in a coal mine.” It was the stupidest thing anyone has ever said.

    Now, thanks to Google, that newscaster is retroactively correct.

    Reply

  43. Kay Says:

    This post literally blew my mind… No… OK… As a fellow word snob, I tip my proverbial hat to you my friend! I didn’t know about these ludicrous changes, it makes me sad. Almost as sad as when I have to order “expresso” in coffee bars. What happened to people respecting and appreciating language?

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      There was a place that called itself “expresso” because, you know, it was express espresso, and I felt it was too risky. The name might be a clever play on words, but it was perpetuating something too awful.

      Reply

  44. Chicago-Style Girl Says:

    I love this list. Can we add jewelry to it? It’s more about the way it’s said, like when people mispronounce nuclear. I hate when someone say’s jew-ler-ry instead of jewel-ry. So frustrating!

    Reply

  45. carpecrapula Says:

    Great post! Irregardless makes me want to kill someone or put them in remedial English class. Unfortunately, spell check considers it a word.

    Reply

  46. theladysews Says:

    Love this post. I am a word snob about what other people writ, but know I make enough of my own blunders to let it ride. It’s pronunciation that gets to me. Pacific instead of specific. Punkin and capsicun rather than pumpkin or capsicum. Someone needed to draw a line, and I’m glad to find it gets such a good response!

    Reply

  47. Alex Says:

    I’ve been seeing a lot of people recently talking about grammar and how it is being misused. This post just made my day.

    Reply

  48. marriedalive Says:

    While we’re at it, short-lived means it had a short life and rhymes with short-fived.

    Reply

  49. jaxbeachjen Says:

    I’ve argued the ‘irregardless’ topic for many years. How is this double negative considered a word? ‘Could care less’ also makes me cringe. You followed my blog recently, thought I would check yours out. This post alone puts you at the top of my favorites. I will however, be nervous when and if you read any of my incoherent ramblings.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Words are Becoming Homogeneous, and it’s the Beginning of the End | Vanessa-Jane Chapman - January 22, 2014

    […] was first alerted to this phenomenon by a post on The Byronic Man‘s blog earlier this week, where he informed us that Google have expanded their definition of […]

  2. This Literally Means War, Figuratively | Bleed Words; Live Boldly - January 22, 2014

    […] This Literally Means War, Figuratively. […]

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