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12 April 2006

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MotherReader

Thank you thank you thank you. The misuse of the word "literally" is my biggest pet peeve, which I have mentioned on my site. I am putting up a link to this page pronto.

jmfausti

I love this. Really egregious uses of literally drive me insane. I've begun pushing the issue when people use literally while speeking in my presence. But misuse of literally doesn't drive me nearly as crazy as the misuse of ironically.

steve

I think it might be, figuratively, a ton of fun to begin to use "literally" in technically correct but collosally inappropriate ways. For example, "I literally ordered the chicken the last time we ate there" or "Literally, I opened the door and went outside."

I should mention that I dislike the use of "literally" to mean "figuratively" but it isn't my biggest grammar or usage annoyance.

Jill

Aww! I was hoping from the name that it was going to literally be a web-log - like, a picture of a log.

To a linguist (a natual science as much as chemistry or biology), there is no such thing as grammatical misuse, except maybe in the sense of "thing grammatical no there misuse as is", which no one would actually say - because their internal grammars wouldn't accept it. Among other problems, "grammatical misuse", like "bad words", is often used as a cover for a way of people in power (people who benefit from the status quo, etc) belittling those who aren't, and don't.

But oh how the prescriptivists stick to their rules - and admittedly, to my ears, there are things that sound really funny (like the construction "This floor needs washed," which a colleague from the midwest once claimed was perfectly acceptable to her). But word senses and meanings and parts of speech are constantly in flux (remember when "access" was a noun, not a verb?), and to the people who're using these alternative uses, they most likely sound just fine! And wouldn't it be just so much irony if a hundred years from now, prescriptivists are latching onto these new senses as the "right" ones, while the general populace has moved on to even newer ones.

Just my linguist perspective. :)

Leila

My head is literally spinning.

(Ha. I can't help it. It cracks me up. Hey, cut me some slack, okay? It's early.)

Jill

Yah. It's always good to have alternate perspectives on stuff, right? ;)

I still think a web-log would be funny, though. :)

Kelly

Very funny! Jill the linguist is correct, of course, but I still can't stop letting these things bug me (My current pet peeve is the disappearance of the word "fewer" from English. If I hear "I have less X" one more time...)

Jill

To each their bugaboo! Mine is the idea of bugaboos in the first place - making it a metabugaboo, hmm?

Okay, I'll stop now.

steve

I imagine that this thread is completely exhausted at this point. I understand that from a linguist's perspective, all statements that are understandable are correct. However, from the point of view of an English teacher trying to drum clarity into the writing of my undergrads, there is a world of difference (not literally, of course) between writing that is understandable and writing that is *easily* understandable. And I understand that the difference that I see is largely a result of my privileged educational background, and that by trying to get people to use language precisely, I'm maintaining the status quo.
But I can only read sentences like this: "Other items like a calendar is shown with the picture of the Capital building on it, presenting it as perhaps her goal while simultaneously showing crossed out dates on the same calendar symbolizing her gradual progress to her goal" (an actual example from one of my students)so many times before I am driven completely insane.
Yes, prescriptive grammar is a tool of the establishment used to keep those without power down. But it also often leads to greater clarity.
With "literally" no one is really going to think that your head is literally spinning if you say that it is, but it seems to me like there are at least some instances in which "proper" grammar and usage can lead to clearer expression of one's ideas.

Leila

My god, Steve. I am so sorry. I know I say that every single time you post a bit from a student paper -- but GAH.

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