Sunday, 22 November 2020

Spot any not inadvisable application.

Like, literally, I've literally pointed this out before.

To the point, literally again, I am a descriptivist when it comes to such things, which is literally the reason for my having literally reconsidered the title above and replaced "inappropriate" with "inadvisable"; I wanted to make it literally clear that I literally don't mind the occasional misapplication and acknowledge that the more occasional the occurrence, the more literally set in the stone of standardization is its potential. But no, Joyce's use does not make it "right". And, yes, those quotation marks literally emphasize more still that I don't see it as a matter of right and wrong.

I maintain my view that literally is the new like. Now I gotta admit that is not what irritates me most. In that previous entry I suggested replacing any happened upon literallies with likes to test my thesis, but what I have noticed more recently is a concurrence of that quality with the pretty clear intent to qualify the verb (the intent of the intent not always so much), and most often those are non-phrasal variations of to go, to talk, and to be.

Here are some translations:

"They're literally just discussing the weather." means "Relax. It's not as if they are saying anything bad."

"They are literally talking about the fucking rain." means "Don't tell me to relax when it's clear they are complaining!"

"I was literally ordering a sandwich." means any number of things depending on what comes next.

"I was literally making a sandwich." means "Actually, I don't even own a television."

"Literally to be or literally not to be, that is, literally, the question." means "Wow, man! Doesn't this, like, blow your mind?!"

While remaining the new "actually", which is not so new and no less superfluous, it seems to move in the world of "as should be obvious to anyone observing that (pronoun)" or "and (predicate) is demonstrably the point I'd like to make [for who knows what reason]", which is likewise not new but increasing in frequency of use.

I can no longer pretend that my annoyance is at either the excess in each of its individual applications or in its aggregate, or because its overuse will somehow blur its own distinction. Nor is the nonessential nature my primary peeve. My language use is nothing if not sprinkled with German chocolate fudge mist.

I guess it's that those instances in which its not only not inadvisable but also an alluringly appropriate demonstration of its distinction are so paltry in comparison. It's as if Vonnegut's painting in the potato barn turned out to be a Where's Wally?