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.