Posted by: episystechpubs | July 21, 2014

Editor’s Corner: More on “Literally”

Good morning!

The discussion of the overuse and misuse of the word “literally” has come up before here at Editor’s Corner. It is also the topic of newspaper articles, blogs, and even TV discussions. Here is yet another comment on the topic—from the cutting wit of Charles Harrington Elster, in his book What in the Word?

Q. Consider the word literally in a sentence like this: “His jokes literally kill me.” To avoid a rather grim interpretation, shouldn’t it be “his jokes figuratively kill me”?

A. Although I might snicker silently to hear someone say “His jokes literally kill me”—or if I was feeling especially petulant, I might say “Congratulations on your resurrection”—I would laugh out loud if I ever heard someone say “His jokes figuratively kill me.” It would be so ridiculously self-conscious and pedantic. The solution, of course, it to eliminate literally. Most of the time the word is superfluous, anyway, and it’s easily replaced with another adverb if such hyperbolic emphasis can’t be resisted.

And on the same topic, from XKCD:

Kara Church

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