There are a lot of small things that piss me off, but nothing pisses me off more than misuse of the word “literally”. Beside genocide. And racism. And some other things. It’s all on the list.
“Literally”: in the literal, strict, non-figurative sense, i.e. without exaggeration.
The whole point of the word “literally” is to show that something did NOT happen figuratively.
So when you write this: “I literally died”. It means you are dead and somehow your ghost is posting a status update to Facebook. “I died” = legitimate figure of speech. “I literally died” = a fucking paradox.
Similarly, when you write “I literally peed myself,” you’re not communicating laughter. You’re reporting urination. It’s a declaration of incontinence. Instead of telling everyone, why don’t you change your pants? What are your priorities?!
And when you tell someone they should “literally” go and fuck themselves, what you’re actually telling them is to go and masturbate. “Hey . . . you . . . stupid person . . . go and stimulate your genital region!” Yeah. Take that. Is that meant to be a punishment? I was probably going to do that anyway. To make this insult functional you have to add something like “while thinking about Rob Ford.” Otherwise it’s really more of a super weird invitation:
“I literally laughed my ass off.” Your bottom separated and fell onto the floor. “I will literally kill you.” You are plotting a murder. “It was literally the worst thing ever.” Forgetting your keys this morning was worse than the Holocaust. These expressions are already hyperbole – what is the point of adding “literally”?
The other day I read this: “the company literally works hand in hand with experts.” So the members of the company and the consultants sit around in a circle and hold hands in meetings. That doesn’t sound creepy at all.
“Literally” = actually happened. I.e. not a figure of speech.
“Figuratively” = what you actually mean when you say “literally”, i.e. the EXACT OPPOSITE THING!