Pet peeve: The word “literally”

(Reposted from my previous blog. 3/18/2009)

Just a quick note here to anyone who wants to use the English language with some level of competence.

I’m not linking to anything, in order to avoid making fun of anyone.

The word “literally” is supposed to communicate something in particular. What it means is that what you’re saying is real, not exaggerated.

The following are examples that I’ve seen recently of its misuse. See if you can figure out what’s wrong:

“Joe the Plumber was literally crucified by the Left …”

“Instead of offering solutions, Republicans are just literally throwing temper tantrums and stomping their feet …”

“Obama has literally declared war on the rich …”

“After I literally starved to death …”

“George Bush literally spat on the Constitution …”

Do you see the problem?

If I see any more of this, I think I’m literally going to explode.

… Just kidding.


7 Responses to Pet peeve: The word “literally”

  1. Darryl says:


    I literally wet my pants reading this…well NOT literally! 🙂

  2. wken says:

    Thanks, Darryl. I needed that image.

  3. Amen! Another favorite of mine is when people preface a highly offensive statement with “No offense, but . . .”

  4. It seems like the word “practically” has been replaced by the word “literally.” It’s as if they want to communicate with simile but are trying to word it like metaphor.

  5. wken says:

    Very good point, Dave.

    I suppose that it might be as simple as misunderstanding the definitions of the two words.


  6. Tim says:

    I think people mistake literally for virtually, or like someone already commented, practically. Malaprops can be hilarious. Remember Norm Crosby?

  7. I hate this type of misuse of words!! My “word” pet peeve is when someone says “Look it” – what is that? Look at it? Look here? Even Russh Limbaugh does this and it drives me crazy!

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