24 November 2006

Dropping Twords #2

About as necessary as antlers on a bar of soap. Literally.
Some words are used so much that they lose their impact, and their meaning fades into ancient history. When they reach that point, People-Who-Couldn't-Care-Less-About-English throw them around like old tissues, with nary a thought for how stupid it makes them look.

To illustrate, see if you can figure out the difference between the following sentences:

1. The woman's car was swept away by the flood.
2. The woman's car was literally swept away by the flood.

I'll tell you the difference. Nothin', that's what. But try telling that to a Channel Ten newsreader, a Today Tonight reporter or another Champion of Unnecessary Filler Words. It's as if adding the word 'literally' gives a sentence more drama; makes it more newsworthy.It's as if the person who wants to say, "there's a hole in my sock" needs to beef it up with, "no, man, really, I'm not kidding - there is really, truly a hole in my sock", when it's quite easy to take his word for it in the first place (incidentally, if you have any issues with my use of the masculine pronoun to denote a person of unspecified gender, please contact me and I'll talk you through it).

Using the same example, if the person in question had a hole the size of a tennis ball in his sock, he could say, "there's a hole in my sock and it's literally as big as a tennis ball". In this case, the addition of 'literally' is justified, because a hole that big is unusual, and a listener might respond with, "Oh buullll it's as big as a tennis ball. You're full of malarkey".

If you find yourself tempted to use 'literally' in a sentence, first try the sentence without it. Please.


  1. Rah. Rah. Rah.

    Figuratively speaking.

  2. This post is literally awesome