Friday, 16 March 2012

Literally my Second Post

(And see also The Oatmeal on the same subject).

I've been following this week's debate on 'literally', which has literally been conducted across various newspapers and blogs following Monday's Today program on BBC Radio 4, and has figuratively (or literally) set Twitter alight with grammar-nerd rage. Aaarghh, people who say literally when they mean figuratively are soooooooo stupid, right?

Polly Curtis' Guardian blog both has its cake and eats it (literally?), pointing out historical and literary 'offences' in order to justify the non-literal meaning of literally, while at the same time collating humourous examples of contemporary (mis)uses.  What's more there is some rather glorious vocabulary in the quotations from OED editor Jesse Sheidlower and Tom Chivers of the Telegraph, namely levitate, shibboleth, contronym, and autoantonym.  Marvellous stuff.

Now, I am by nature and inclination a bit of a language pedant, but surely it's better to celebrate creative language than endlessly bemoan the failings of the unthinking.  Stephen Fry has said it far better than I ever could (naturally).

So, if you intend to engage in linguistic nitpickery (another beautiful word), let's do it with wit and style, rather than rage.


  1. I love the video and Stephen Fry. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Nice work, love the Stephen Fry video, not only the sentiments expressed but the presentation. Bit like an eye-test for keen readers! Try producing one of those for a class with comprehension questions to follow!!
    Did you take a standard blog background or are they pix. from your visit to Switzerland? I suspect the latter. Keep going - doesn't matter if there are thousands of EFL blogs out there, each of us is unique and brings a unique perspective to our own individual blogs.

  3. You're right Alison - this is Lake Lucerne again. I had to edit the photo to make it smaller than 300kb. I might change the photo though because the most interesting bit is the sparkle on the water - which is in the centre so hidden beneath the text!

  4. hi
    there's a great post at Language Log on a US talk show guy's uses of "Literalville"

    the comments on that post are equally hilarious.