wordoftheweek2lit·er·al·ly adverb \ˈli-tə-rə-lē, ˈli-trə-lē, ˈli-tər-lē\

1: in a literal sense or manner : actually

2: in effect : virtually

Let’s take it from the top. “Literally” is conventionally utilized to express that something actually happened, that you felt a particular way, that you did an actual thing, that you experienced some sort of tangible and relatable experience. Sure, great, that makes sense. That’s what I thought. That’s why I pretentiously correct people when they say things like, “I was so hot I was literally about to explode.” You know, because they obviously weren’t really about to explode. That’s just ridiculous. Perfect. Now that we’ve got the top covered, why don’t we see what’s lurking there at the bottom. Hmmm, so you’re telling me that “literally” can also mean THE EXACT OPPOSITE of what you just told me it means? “Literally” can be used to convey both an actual and a virtual happenstance? So I can say, “I was so hot I was literally about to explode,” and be using “literally” in a correct manner? What?? Alright, I guess. Well, no, not alright at all, my head is literally spinning right now, and I am literally not happy about it.

So what exactly are we to take away from this lunacy? Well, if you’d like my counsel on the subject, I would recommend that you immediately cease and desist in your usage of “literally” for as long as you roam this cold, cruel world. However, if you must use “literally” feel free to do so with impunity because it almost literally cannot be used incorrectly. In any event, you should probably stop correcting people on their usage because, well, because you’re probably wrong. Go figure.

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