A lot of people are using the word “literally” incorrectly. I don’t mean technically slightly incorrectly, I mean absolutely in the wrong context to mean something almost completely different.
To prove this, the dictionary definition from Dictionary.com is shown below. To summarise it, literally means that something is literal; what you are saying is not an exaggeration or a metaphor, what you mean is exactly what the words mean.
The fourth definition though, seems to be exactly the opposite of the rest. Take the example they use:
Now apply the definition of “literally”:
Every year, thousands of people die from watching others walk on stage in that costume. This is a serious issue because that’s not what actually happens.
Dictionaries have added to the definition of “literally” to include the exact opposite of what literally means. “Literally” is now possible the only word that means two opposite things.
One thing is to modify dictionaries to acommodate new words, but another is to let people use incorrect grammar and then let them think they’re correct by changing the definition of the word to become the opposite of what it is supposed to be.
“It literally took me 2 hours to finish that essay.”
There is no need to use the word literally here, because taking two hours is probably not going to be interpreted as an exaggeration. There might be times when this is true, so you might need to specify that you are being literal and actually mean that you took two hours rather than implying that you took a very long time.
Most of the time though, you do not need to specify that how long you took is literal. Unless you say you took millions of years, you’re probably being literal.
“He literally just walked away.”
Or you could just say “He just walked away” because that says the -exact- same thing. The word “literally” does not add anything to this sentence and doesn’t change the meaning, at all.
You CANNOT use the word “literally” to mean “seriously”, “extremely”, “actually”, “very”, or anything else just to add emphasis to your point. That is misusing the word and should be literally punished by her walking out on stage in that costume.
Alanis Morissette needs to make a new song, “Literally”*
*Because her popular song “Ironic” mentioned several examples of what she claimed were irony, but most of them were not actually ironic and were instead just unfortunate.
Please use “literally” properly. plz.