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<   No. 3026   2011-05-10   >

Comic #3026

1 Jane Goodall: So the Reichstag Fire is the divergence point.
2 Terry: But if Hitler wasn't Chancellor then, the timelines are different already.
3 Yeti: There are always minor differences between timelines. A strange name here, an odd date there. History largely flows over these without changing course.
4 Yeti: But the Reichstag Fire seems to be a point where things went up in flames.
4 Steve: Crikey!
4 Yeti: Figuratively speaking.

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One of the group pet peeves we love discussing in my circle of friends is the current misuse of the word "literally", as in "It was so funny I literally died laughing."

Is your funeral planned in the next few days? No? Well then you didn't literally die laughing. You may certainly have figuratively died laughing, in which case it's understood that you laughed loudly and substantially while not actually dropping dead. You can even state this merely as, "I died laughing," where it is through idiomatic convention generally accepted that you are in fact speaking figuratively, and not literally.

It's a perfectly good figure of speech, and there is no beef with that. Figures of speech add colour and poetry to a language, and we would be the poorer without them. But being a figure of speech, it is a figurative expression - the opposite of a literal expression. To take an expression like this and then add the word "literally" to it is ... an interesting evolution of the English language.

Because of course criticising people for using words in new ways that contradict their older established meanings is a losing battle. The best you can do is rail against it like an old fogey yelling at kids to get off your lawn.

So get off our lawn!

P.S. Bonus sentence that you should try to use: "Barnacles littorally covered the rocks."

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Last Modified: Tuesday, 10 May 2011; 03:11:01 PST.
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