First a disclaimer: I believe language is an evolving beast. “Queer” doesn’t mean the same thing now as it did in 1955, and it didn’t mean the same thing then as it did in 1855. I don’t think that Kids Today are going to destroy the planet with their texting or their sexting or their rap talk.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few grammatical pet peeves.
Life seems to have imitated art in the years since Mad TV’s Clyde and Judith spewed elaborate similes and then defeated the whole point of metaphor by punctuating it with “Literally!” There are two ways that the rampant abuse of “literally” pisses me off.
1. The classic Clyde-and-Judith-style misuse, when what you really mean is “figuratively” (which is literally the opposite of “literally”!). Plum Sykes, the Vogue writer I look to anytime I’m not sure what to wear to Gwyneth Paltrow’s birthday party, opened her recent article about Tom Ford’s new cosmetics line by saying that he’s the one guy most women would “literally die to receive a makeup lesson from.”
If that’s true, Tom should launch a line of mortuary makeup, because shortly after their lessons, those women will be buried. I suppose we should all be so lucky as to die doing something we love, but personally all I would give for a makeup lesson with Tom Ford is, literally, like twenty bucks. And that depends whether there’s a free gift with purchase.
2. The not-technically-incorrect but equally unnecessary use of “literally” to mean “very.” As in, “I literally ate six Arina and Cracked Pepper Crackers with Fennel and Pomegranate Salad at Gwyneth’s b-day party. Then she was literally like, ‘Thanks so much for coming to my party. Excuse me, now I’m going to go speak Spanish and sing.’”
I think it’s my inner poet who, unlike my inner fashionista, believes less is more. Why say “I literally ate six crackers” when it means the exact same thing to say “I ate six crackers”? It’s so much tidier.
Okay, my rant is done. I am also highly disturbed by Kotex’s U line of feminine hygiene products, which claims that the best way to express your personal boho style* is by printing something you’re going to bleed all over with swirly paisley stuff. But I’ll save that one for another day.
*All the real bohemians are wearing the Keeper anyway.**
**I am not a real bohemian.