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Literally wrong

Rarely have much time (or interest) to devote to news reading, but this bit on Presidential candidate gaffes toward the end of the Iowa caucus campaign was too rich for me (or many others) to resist. Of particular chalkboard-fingernail quality is this gem from a former First Lady:
“We had 300 people outside, literally freezing to death,” Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton marveled on Tuesday before a crowd in Iowa City. (No deaths were reported, in fact.)
If they'd actually died, perhaps their absence could be blamed for Clinton's showing in Iowa.

My continued annoyance with the abuse of "literally" brought me to The Banished Words List from Lake Superior State University. Regrettably, it hasn't yet made the list, but plenty of others have deservedly gotten the axe (I banned "organic" for similar reasons back in 2006).


The use of the word "literally" has been discussed in my house. Most recently following a cooking show where the chef said that that he was "literally going to cook" the casserole. Later, he literally (lit'rally, actually) stirred a batter.

Now, I realize that he did actually do these things, but I feel that it was a bit much. That he would cook the casserole or stir the batter was never a surprise. "omg! he's actually LITERALLY going to cook that raw casserole!".

anyway. as usual, your views are spot on.
Love the chef's continued emphasis—it's as if he was literally on a cooking show!

Oh, wait…

And I do feel that a politician should be more responsible with their language than a chef on a literal cooking show.
Certainly. And I'm willing to grant lots of leeway and grace (especially with their insane schedules), but politicians make that difficult because they don't tend to admit their fallibility. Perhaps the electorate is partly responsible for seeking perfection, but a candidate's ability to admit fault and laugh at him/herself goes a long way with me.
My favorite use of the word literally comes from the show... er which I think is called Bounty Hunter... or something. That "reality" show with the guy and his scratchy Hulk Hogan voice and long blond mullet. In illuminating the fascinated tv audience on how one must be to be a great and successful bounty hunter he says;
"You literally have to have eyes in the back of your head".
I'm assuming he doesn't realize how this eliminates him from the category, but I'm also glad he said it because it has given me, literally minutes of extremely enjoyable laughter.