Thursday, May 9, 2013

Misused words: "Literally"

"Literally" means "not figuratively", i.e. actually, or "word for word". Yet many people use it in the opposite sense, or as an intensifier.

The UK's deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, in a radio interview, said:

"It makes people so incredibly angry when you are getting up early in the morning, working really hard to try and do the right thing for your family and for your community, you are paying your taxes and then you see people literally in a different galaxy who are paying extraordinarily low rates of tax."

Mr Clegg was presumably not really urging us to believe that people who pay low rates of tax live in a different galaxy. (I will leave his misuse of the word "incredibly" to another post.)

1 comment:

  1. This common error of prominent people who should know better is being compounded by the compilers of dictionaries, including Google, Merriam-Webster and Cambridge University.

    This is revealed on the CNN website, which accompanies its article on this with a very short and funny video clip making fun of this flagrant abuse of the English language.

    Good for CNN! "BBC", you should watch and learn!