Tuesday, August 26, 2014

After reading this you will literally defecate.

I am a big fan of the English language. I am a fan of words and the power they have to create images, sensations, and emotions within a person. Technically, I cannot state accurately that I'm a fan of the English language because I am largely stunted in my study of languages, thus English is the only language I have an astute understanding and comprehension of.

One thing that I love is the duality of certain words. I am all about using words in ways that they are usually not used. Peter recently laughed at the way I compliment things, stating that calling houses "mighty"is not a general tactic of many. Funny sounding or not, however, I am not misusing that word. "Mighty" has many ways it can be used, let us take a gander to Dictionary.com for some examples:

adjective: mighty; comparative adjective: mightier; superlative adjective: mightiest
  1. 1.
    possessing great and impressive power or strength, especially on account of size.
    "three mighty industrial countries"
    • (of an action) performed with or requiring great strength.
      "a mighty heave"
    • informal
      very large.
      "she gave a mighty hiccup"

adverb: mighty
  1. 1.
    "this is mighty early to be planning a presidential campaign"

If you ask the Google machine for the definition of "mighty," it even offers you a graph indicating the word's use from 1800 to now. If that isn't exciting, I don't know what is! Thanks to the internet, you can now select your vocabulary for exclusiveness or lack of current use and be a true hipster. 

One thing which tickles my feathers and makes me giggle is when someone uses a word that I haven't heard in a long time, or even better, when they use one in an accurate but rare way. For example, the way F. Scott Fitzgerald surprised me this week as I read The Great Gatsby and he chose to use the word "ejaculate" to discribe how a gentleman said a phrase suddenly. The author has used this term correctly, but I definitely don't read that phrase on a daily basis.
A new fun word you could try using is, "billingsgate." Definition: coarsely abusive language, as in, "Modern billingsgate betrays puerile imbecility of pundits" - (headline in the Rome (GA) News-Tribune, March 4, 2006). WOAH, SO MANY NEAT WORDS. High five to Georgia! 

Something I have a hard time keeping up with, though, is when a word is selected for the distinct purpose of bastardising its use beyond recognition. This happens often in slang and informal language. Take examples such as "sick" or "crazy" to indicate expressive greatness. Because I was once a youth myself, I am pretty fluent in their terms and colloquialisms, thus will attempt to give you an example indicating how both "sick" and "crazy" can be used to indicate a positive or pleasurable experience. 

Youth 1: Yo, dude. Wassup? 
Youth the II: Holla, my bruddah! 
Youth 1: Didn't I see you getting totally jiggy at Dylan's sick party last night?  
Youth the II: fer shizzle my nizzle, that was one crazy par-TAY. 

It would seem to uninformed onlookers that these two youths had attended a gathering filled with vomiting youth who also had escaped from a Psychiatric institution, but NO. Instead, both "sick" and "crazy" here are being used to indicate something which was close to out of control. 

These kinds of terms I often explain by assuming they have been formed in an attempt to express hyperbole and exaggeration. They are both extreme terms, and thus when used communicate an idea of extremeness. 

Here is when I condemn and put my figurative foot down. Why are we destroying the word "literally," and can we please stop it? 

  1. in a literal manner or sense; exactly.
    "the driver took it literally when asked to go straight across the traffic circle"
    • informal
      used for emphasis or to express strong feeling while not being literally true.
      "I have received literally thousands of letters"

My father, being a Linguist by profession, can probably tell me a long list of other words from the English language where the second dictionary definition completely contradicts the first, rendering it completely useless, but this makes me all sorts of angry in my heart and I'm much less educated about those words, so I am fighting for literally. 

If we go back to the term "sick" as being used colloquially to express something good or enjoyable, there is something very wonderful to help us in understanding its proper use: context and situation. I have never misunderstood someone in their use of the term "sick." "Literally," on the other hand, provides no context clues at all. 

If someone tells me, "she literally has three eyes," I would be immediately searching for a documentary on such an individual so I can learn the medical implications of such a condition. The word "literally" is designed to tell me exactness, so that is what I am taking from the things you tell me! There are dozens if not hundreds of words to express hyperboles, metaphors, similes, and other such situations if you wish to express someone has a pulsating zit right between their eyes. Try, "it looks as though she has a horn protruding out of her face, she probably won't be able to sleep on her front tonight without drilling a hole into her mattress first." Awesome! Through my education in social customs and the English language, I know that you are exaggerating! I also know you're probably not a very good friend, and I should avoid you if I'm breaking out. As soon as you add the term "literally," though, I have been trained to abandon all of my expectations of figurative language and remember that everything you told me is true. LITERALLY. 

"We need to set up a charity for this girl!" I will think to myself. "Why are people dumping buckets of ice on their head if this girl can't even SLEEP safely?! Surely some doctor somewhere has a cure!"  
Peter and I are still very much enjoying the show "Bachelor in Paradise," and there are a lot of poor "literally"s being abused and misused every episode. Our favourite has been "I am literally speechless right now." 
"But... but... but..." we stammer at the screen, "but you just had the speech words coming out of your mouth. You are speaking. Right now. If you were a cartoon you would have a speech bubble, and it would be full of words."  
Another girl told a fellow contestant, "you are literally killing me right now," and while I do not hope to be murdered, I have now decided that if I ever am faced with someone who wants to harvest my organs and begins to attack me, my last words will, nay, must be "you are literally killing me right now." There is literally no other way. 

Before we close, let us look at the title of this blog post. You may be screaming at me, "Melece, you filthy hypocrite, you LITERALLY just misused the word literally. I am literally printing off a picture of you as we speak so I can throw my own feces at it." To that I say, you may be crazy. Literally. Also, that I did not misuse this beautiful word, because at some point after you read this, you will defecate. I hope it is in the toilet, and that it is a positive experience for you, but it is true. Just as literally every serial killer in the world has drank water before killing, and literally every man in the world breathes air. 

Now I challenge you, my dear friends: go forth and use this precious word correctly. I literally dare you to! And may your experiences as you do so be joyous.


  1. I love this. I need to print this and hand it out to people to teach them the meaning of literally.