You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
You hear it all the time. Maybe you say it all the time. Using literally when you don’t mean literally. I try not to let people’s usage foibles bother me, except when they’re the product of pretense. If someone use incidentses when they mean instances, I hope (at worst) to laugh it off or (at best) not even laugh secretly inside my head. But when people get all persnickety about other peoples’ grammar or command of the English language, my sense of grace evaporates a bit.
But I confess, literally is one of those words that brings out the super in my superciliousness. People say things like, “That literally scared me half to death,” which makes me wonder how a half death can be measured. Or, “I sat and stared for, literally, ten seconds,” as opposed to the figurative ten seconds that gets tossed about in idioms all the time.
People keep using that word. I don’t think it means what they think it means. Try a dictionary, people.
Okay. Here’s what the dictionary (Merriam-Webster, the real one) says about literally:
Definition of LITERALLY
1: in a literal sense or manner : actually [took the remark literally] [was literally insane]
Okay. Duh. Literally means literally. Except when it doesn’t.
2: in effect : virtually [will literally turn the world upside down to combat cruelty or injustice — Norman Cousins]
Wait, what now? Literally means virtually? Or, not really literally, but practically literally. Inconceivable! Dictionary, could you give me more info on this one?
Usage Discussion of LITERALLY
Since some people take sense 2 to be the opposite of sense 1, it has been frequently criticized as a misuse. Instead, the use is pure hyperbole intended to gain emphasis, but it often appears in contexts where no additional emphasis is necessary.
Got it. So people sometimes use literally extraneously (see my second example above; ten seconds is ten seconds, and it’s rarely necessary to use exaggerated language to clarify that the time given is not an exaggeration) but it is perfectly appropriate and sound to use literally hyperbolically even with figurative intentions.
As much as I have wanted the second definition of literally to be erroneous, it’s not. Literally can be used accurately to connote virtually when one wishes to convey the point exaggeratedly. While I hate admitting I was formerly among them in this case (okay, no, I don’t mind so much), I love it when the grammar snobs are wrong.
So the next time someone harps on your usage of literally when you genuinely mean virtually, tell him or her to go seek out a dictionary and shut their fat yapper. Literally.
When we first moved into our house, we noticed something weird. Our neighbors never wore pants. Okay, that’s not true. They wore only pants. No, really, we had no neighbors. Or we had no pants. Our neighbors were Señor and Señora Pantalones. Alright, honestly, it wasn’t that weird.
We have two bedrooms at the end of the hall upstairs. One of them, now Colin’s room, had a doorknob with a lock in it. That wasn’t weird. The doors to every room had locks in them. The doors to closets, pantries: no locks. None of that is weird.
But one bedroom, what eventually became Addison’s room, the one right next to Colin’s, had no lock. Our utility closet did have a lock that ensured our furnace and hot water heater could enjoy as much privacy as they needed. So, you know, kinda weird. Not Señor Pantalones weird, but just, oh, it’s weird that someone at some point thought, Hey, what if someone tries to break in and take the air filter RIGHT OUT OF THE DUCT WORK?
Today, we went to Warren Dunes in Michigan, and the entire way there he was going on and on about how he refused to go in the water. If anyone mentioned water or swimming or waves or Lake Michigan or dihydrogen monoxide, he would yell out, “I’m not going in the water!” Heather suggested he might change his mind. Colin insisted, “I don’t want to change my mind!”
We got it, Colin. You’re not going in the water. I thought Heather might snap because he wouldn’t. Stop. Saying it.
So the first thing he did upon arrival at the beach? He ran away from us, straight into the water, where he stayed for about an hour. Raising this kid is going to be fun. Well, it already is.
When we left the beach and headed to the parking lot, Colin (and Addison) insisted on something else, though this was of the wantingto actually do something variety. Colin couldn’t wait to go on
the big bouncy thing. Only the big bouncy thing wasn’t for bouncing, it was a gigantic water slide. A gigantic, inflatable water slide. In the past, Colin has tended to share my abject fear of heights, so when he came upon the apparently wobbly plastic steps leading up the mountainous chute of watery doom fun, I figured he would turn away shivering and refusing to set foot on even the lowest step.
And then he climbed it. The guy manning the stairs had to hold him back until it was his turn. Colin climbed the stairs so fast (and pushed past the slowpokes waiting at the top) that by the time I got to the other side to take his picture, I heard someone say, “Ha, look at this kid!” as a squealing blond-headed ball of glee whizzed by.
We let him and Addison go again and he cut in line again so quickly I missed the photo op then, too. Now, I wasn’t surprised that Addison was willing to do this. He would jump out of a plane onto this slide without being asked twice. I did get some video of Addison’s second turn down the Hippo. Well, it was about the second half of his second trip down. It’s not really worth the upload, but trust me . . . they both had lots of fun. And the slide really was 6 billion feet tall. Give or take a few billion feet.
The point is this: something about the call of the water turned my three-, wait, no, four-year-old son into a fearless bundle of derring-do. So now I’m officially the chicken of the family. I guess I’m cool with that. I just wish this whole kids-growing-up thing would slow down a bit.
Okay, I love Harry Potter. The books more than the movies, but I really do love the whole enterprise. Mostly. I’ve seen and enjoyed all the movies, but the hype of their release doesn’t consume me the way the books did as they apparated into my life. I am excited to see how the final chapter looks on the big (2-D) screen, but . . . wait, hold on just one second . . .
This new WordPress update is hot!
Okay, where was I? Yes, I like the movies. Love the books. But with that in mind, I’m more excited about another British import: Winnie the Pooh.
The animation looks simple. The drawing looks exquisite. All of it looks pretty true to the original . . . well, the original Disney stuff. The thing I’m most excited about? The music. Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward (aka She and Him) are all over the soundtrack. And they are delightful. I downloaded the album as soon as I could. It’s cool. I’d love for my kids to see the movie. And I’d love for you to hear this song.
Now, if you can’t listen to that link, try watching this little preview:
Dyson has a new line of fans that scares the crap out of me. The fans have no blades. They’re just circles. Holes. Sorcerous loops of evil.
That’s not right. I’m sure there’s some scientific explanation on their site about how this works. But are we really supposed to believe that this isn’t an evil magic spell designed to blow demon breath straight into our souls? Are we? Because I don’t.
Wouldn’t it be nice if this were the kind of technology that we dreamed could bring us flying cars and personal space travel, not to mention airflow that doesn’t get buffeted (the foremost benefit put forward by the we-don’t-lose-suction folks at Dyson)? Yes, it would be great. If it weren’t the work of Satan.
Maybe this is where I should make a transitional point, a reversal of thought about how I should be open to new things. But no. I won’t. Bladelessness is next to soullessness. I refuse to let my guard down for unbuffeted air. Sure, there are no blades, so no one loses any fingers. All we stand to lose . . . is our souls.
That circle of mystery? It’s not a fan. Neither am I.
This post: not about Angry Birds, the app I’ve never played. I have enough addictions without adding an angry one. No, this post is about anger and how infectious it can be.
So why birds? Maybe because birds of an angry feather stay the flock together. Maybe because when people get really angry, they flash a bird or two to express their rage. Or maybe I just thought the title Angry Birds was a good way to draw traffic. Who can know?
So where was I? Oh, yes, anger. Anger is sticky. I usually save my anger for two groups of people: those who I love most and those I don’t think I’ll ever see again. I’ll yell at the guy in the car in front of me who waits two seconds after the light turns green before getting started. (It’s green, you moron, move . . . TODAY!) I won’t yell at the pizza guy who doesn’t realize my pizza has been sitting on a shelf behind him for 10 minutes. I won’t yell at my neighbor for failing to clean up the giant pile of firework crap he blew into my yard, but I will yell at my kids for not eating their dinners expediently. Or I’ll raise my voice.
See, that’s another thing about anger. We don’t admit to it. I’m not angry, I’m frustrated. I’m not yelling, I’m raising my voice. I’m not punching the wall, I’m looking for studs with conviction. DON’T LAUGH AT MY DANGLING MODIFIER. I wish there wasn’t this stigma with anger. It should be okay to say, Yeah, I was yelling. Yes, I’m mad. Because it feels as though half the madness of anger is the emotional combustion that results when we feel prohibited from expressing our anger in the first place.
But permission to be angry isn’t the solution to all our problems. In the “people I don’t know” category, I could tone down my rage just by relaxing a bit about trivial things like traffic and Cubs baseball.
The real challenge, though, is the anger we feel and express at home within our families. I get angry when my kids don’t listen, when they disregard rules they’ve known about for years, when they get angry with each other. Yeah, that last one’s fun. STOP YELLING! But anger feeds itself. I get mad, she gets mad, they get mad until we’re all mad. Those are the best days..
I think (I don’t know, it’s just a theory) that the best way to diffuse anger is not to use it. I mean, when something makes me angry, I tend to use that anger to fuel my response. Hence the yelling. Or the biting sarcasm. Or the breaking stuff. But when I do that, I pass my anger on to the next person. It’s crazy how it works. If I yell at someone, nine times out of nine and a half, I’ll get yelled at in response. And the yelling dissipates slowly once we all realize we’d rather not be yelling. We really would enjoy the not yelling, if we could give it a try. We all know this. But when we all begin sharing our anger so generously, it’s rather difficult to return to stinginess.
I think I’d find myself less yellish if I could use my anger only as motivation to act or speak, not as fuel or the guiding force. Like, I’m angry, I should do something. Why don’t I take Thing 1 aside for a chat about throwing food. Or, why don’t I think up a reasonable punishment. Not, I’m angry, ROAR, SMASH!
It’s just so difficult sometimes. Okay, always. Our family’s been a gang of four for four years now, and each of us has gotten really adept at knowing exactly what makes the other three angry. I suppose we should be learning what makes us all happy. And we do know how to make each other happy. We’re happy more often than angry. But when the anger does inevitably flare up, it’s just a matter of taking the time to think before responding. Maybe.
I think it’s possible. You know those people who always manage to stay cool no matter how angry everyone else gets? They make me so mad. But I guess they’re on to something.
UPDATE: I figured I’d add a Friday Playlist of one to this post: Broken Edge, “No Shelter,” from the Karate Kid soundtrack. Because it’s so angry.