You may have already seen this, but if you do a Google search for the word “literally”, it comes up with the following definitions:
Note the second one, which was apparently added back in 2011 though nobody really noticed it until recently. I see it all the time in the sports world; a player will play very well for a few games in a row and people say he’s “literally on fire”. I’ve heard people saying that someone “literally took the bull by the horns” or something they didn’t like “literally drove me crazy”. Up to now, this has simply been wrong. Now, apparently, it’s not.
At the risk of being (correctly) labeled a “grammar Nazi”, the misuse of this word has been (figuratively) driving me crazy for years. Language changes and evolves, I get that. The sentence “My cell’s out of juice so I can’t tweet” would have made no sense thirty years ago.
These kids today People younger than myself use the word “sick” to describe something good, but that’s slang and was likely done intentionally for ironic effect.
This is not the same as giving a word (cell, tweet) a new meaning for which no word previously existed, or using a word ironically. In this case, people who don’t know what the word means are incorrectly using it to mean precisely the opposite of what it actually means, and now we’re saying that’s OK. We are catering to the seemingly increasing number of ignorant people. Rather than teaching people the correct meaning of the word and correcting those who misuse it, we are just making it right so that there’s no problem.
We are dumbing down the language.
If this continues, here are some other words that will be added to the dictionary sometime soon:
Prolly: (adv.) Probably. As in “I’ll be there late in the morning, prolly around ten-thirty.”
There: (adv.) Synonym for “they are” (formerly “they’re”) or “belonging to them” (formerly “their”). As in “They can’t remember where they parked, so there looking for there car over there.” Much easier to have just one word since people use them interchangeably anyway. Similarly, “its” vs. “it’s”.
Alot: (n.) A lot. Alot of people use this word, not knowing that it does not exist. But it doesn’t need to make you unhappy.
Ignorant: (adj.) Rude. It actually means “without knowledge”, as in “I am ignorant of the rules of cricket.” But if someone cuts in line in front of you at the grocery store, that’s rude, not ignorant.