phenomena observed occur with 100% probability
aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggg. can i first just say that it's not twain or dickens or joyce or whomever using "literally" in that sense but their characters/narrators?? tom sawyer's misusing the word tells us something about his character (and none too subtely). joyce's The Dead's famous first line is, "Lily, the caretaker's daughter, was literally run off her feet," not because she was literally run off her feet nor, probably, because joyce was an idiot, but because that is how lily would put it herself and gee it tells us a lot about her character.language doesn't work that way and people who try to control and confine language are snotty and truly language should be alive and emergent and besides it can't actually mean anyway and signifier derrida blah blah blah. BUT 1) sometimes words are different for a reason. here is an example produced literally from a conversation i actually had with a security guy at the airport:SG: we recommend that you remove your shoes.me: okay thank you (and then i proceeded to try to walk through the metal detector in them)SG: we recommend that you remove your shoes.me: no, it's okay; there's no metal in themSG: we recommend that you remove your shoes.me: (eyeing his gun) um, do you mean that you REQUIRE me to remove my shoes??SG: we recommend that you remove your shoes.me: IF ONLY THERE WERE TWO WORDS TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN SOMETHING THAT WAS OPTIONAL BUT ENCOURAGED VERSUS THAT WHICH WAS ABSOLUTELY MANDATORY (but only in my head while removing my shoes).2) would also like to say a word about empowerment and joy, and this, i would argue, is one of the hallmarks of language. in the first place, greg and i were at a pointless back-to-school meeting where the hopelessly inept, self serving, obnoxious, conceited Chancellor of the System said, not once but twice, that there were so many people at the (required) meeting that we were "literally hanging from the rafters." this being demonstrably not the case, greg and i shared a smug moment of joy and power, roughly translated thusly: it is we two against the rest of these idiots but indeed we shall vanquish for we are smart and they are dumb. and while some might argue that that is conceited and snotty, it seems to me to be a reapproiation of the language in the form of reclaiming. and duh that is the best kind. -- mtg
I enjoy the fact that you've written "...an example produced literally from a conversation i actually had with a security guy at the airport," as if the reader is familiar only with the figurative definition of "literally" and not the...um...literal one, and wouldn't understand that you in fact had this conversation without your use of the word "actually."
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