You know when people use the word “literally”
when they mean “figuratively” and then you get
all snooty and tell them they literally don’t
know what literally means?
Well the joke’s on you, ma’am.
Since the incorrect usage of “literally” was so
widespread, The Oxford English Dictionary
officially changed the meaning of literally to
include both definitions. In 2011 already. So
while literally still means in a literal sense as in:
“Advanced Ebola symptoms include literally
bleeding from the eyes” it also officially means
in a figurative sense as in: “The last Game of
Thrones episode literally made my eyes bleed.”
So literally can literally mean figuratively these
While this might be an acrid pill to swallow for
the staunch upholders of English grammar, I
actually think it’s pretty cool. Languages evolve
through time and usage and the only languages
that do not change are the dead ones. Besides,
there are many other words that we use daily
that didn’t originally mean what they mean in
today’s usage.
“Awesome” is a great example. It used to mean
inspiring awe or terror. A natural disaster or a
god would be awesome. Not a night out with
friends, or getting to leave work early on a
“Amazing” is another one. It’s supposed to
mean “to cause great wonder or
astonishment”. Yet, no one will blink an eye, or
more pertinently, ask you what happened if you
tell them you had an amazing chicken salad for
This is all good and well if everyone knows the
new meanings and uses the words in the same
way of course. Which brings me to my point
this week…
These days I’m a big believer in building human
relationships, mending rifts between the sexes
and striving for harmony in general. Which is
why I want to make a public service
announcement right here in black on white:
It is all very well that the word originally meant
satisfactory or pleasing, but any woman can tell
you that saying “Fine” in response to “How do I
look?” is a deeply and incredibly stupid thing to
No one wants to look fine. Unless it’s with a
long “I”. As in “damn, girl, you fiiiiiiiiiiiiine”.
There are literally dozens of other adjectives
you can use that can denote a wide, nuanced
variety of positivity in your response.
Fine is not one of them.
And while I’m at it, when you ask her how she
is, hours later after the dragon fire has died
down, and she says “I’m fine”, that’s probably
not meant positively either.