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Literally vs Figuratively


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This was taken from Sydney Writers Centre’s Newsletter 18 Oct 2012

Of all the mistakes grammarians simply can’t abide, this one must be one of the worst. For some seeing the word “literally” misused is like
fingernails on a blackboard. And it’s an error we see all the
Literally is an adverb meaning “in a literal
manner; word for word; to translate literally
” or to take something in its literal sense. It should NOT be used when you actually mean
figuratively – as the writer in this example has done:

“I can assure you we are literally bending over backwards to take into account the concerns raised.”

Unless they really are bending over backwards (and that’s
a physical impossibility for most people), then there’s no need for the word literally to be here. What they actually mean is they are
figuratively bending over backwards, which means metaphorical or not

Here are some other examples of incorrect use of literally from
Contradictionary by Fritz Spiegl:  “Her eyes were literally glued to
“… with his eyes he literally scoured the corners of the
“Crabs and lobsters are literally found crawling round the
floor waiting for an order.”


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This entry was posted on October 21, 2012 by and tagged , , , , , , , .

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