With the increasing number of words being misused or so overused as to render them almost meaningless, I want to throw in my two cents. Not literally, of course – though from what I hear around me, some people may be waiting for me to ante up. When did so many people become enamored of the word “literally”? When did it morph from meaning “free from allegory or metaphor” to “really” or “very”?

Okay, I get that “really” became boring, but do we really need “really” (or “literally”) in most cases? Or do some people just think the more words they use the smarter they sound?

But beware: That plan can backfire – as when Sean Hannity proudly announced that “some politicians literally hate my guts.” I don’t think it’s your kishkas they dislike, Sean. 

Or when an eyewitness to a crime tells the reporter she was “literally shocked by what the man did.” I hope there was an EMT unit nearby.

My favorite example of the misuse of “literally” is from the book reviewer who interviewed the author of a harrowing account of a war-torn part of Africa. The reviewer concluded that the author had “literally been to hell and back.”

Now that’s a person I’d like to interview!


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