Pet Peeve #276--Literal Misuse


I have pet peeves just like everyone else. Most of the time I am annoyed, but I do my best to ignore it and focus on the positive--the glass is half full and all that. 

There are times, however, when a certain peeve is forced upon me, making it impossible not to notice its obnoxious appearance in my daily life. 

The current peeve that I am referring to is literal misuse--ie, misusing a specific word to the point of confusion and, in my case, anger.

See if you can figure out the word from this actual conversation between Jordan and I at the movies two weeks ago:
* * *
Jordan (upon returning to the theater from the bathroom): Hey, guess who I saw in the bathroom?
Me: Who?
Jordan: Your boss.
Me: Oh wow, really? 
Jordan: Yeah, I literally bumped into him while walking through the door.
Me: Oh my gosh! You did? Did he recognize you?
Jordan: No.
Me: Well what did he say?
Jordan: I didn't talk to him.
Me: But what did he say when you bumped into him? 
Jordan: I didn't actually bump into him. I almost did, though.
Me (confused): said you literally bumped into him.
Jordan: Oh. Well, I didn't. 

* * *

The word, if you didn't catch it, is literally. 
I find this a lot in normal conversation and also in books I'm editing.  So basically I find it everywhere, to my chagrin.

In a book:
  -His voice literally dripped with compassion. (Makes me wonder what color compassion is when it drips.)
  -His face was literally beaming with excitement. (Unless you're Jesus, your face will never be beaming.)

At church:
  -His ministry literally stretched around the world. (Um, no it didn't.)

In real life:
  -It literally took me ten minutes. (But after further conversation I find out that it really took two and a half minutes.)

Do you see why this is a problem? Misusing the word literally can literally change the entire meaning of what you're saying!

So please do (some might argue crazy) people like me a favor and just be careful. Think about the words you're using and what they mean before you use them.

I wish I could literally smack people who use this word incorrectly.
And I mean that in the most literal sense.
Caitlin said...

I am so with you.

Allison said...

Hahaha...I love this post because I agree 100%. That word is so overused and abused! Love the face beaming reference.

Amanda said...

@CaitlinGood to know I'm not the only one :)