Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Literally and figuratively

[Dustin, August 29, 2017. Click for a larger view.]

Even The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (1989), which asserts that the hyperbolic literally is “neither a misuse nor a mistake for some other word,” cautions against indiscriminate use:

Is it necessary, or even useful, to add an intensifier like literally to a well-established metaphorical use of a word or phrase? Will the use add the desired emphasis without calling undue attention to itself, or will the older senses of literally intrude upon the reader’s awareness and render the figure ludicrous, as was the case when a football play-by-play man we heard some years ago said the defensive linemen had “literally hammered the quarterback into the ground”?
That quarterback, like Jason, must have been literally as slow as molasses. Fitch, Dustin, are you listening?

See also this strip’s treatment of copyediting, phrasal adjectives, and “rocket surgery.”

A related post
Literally, a Chrome extension

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