I have a complaint.
Ok, I have quite a few complaints. But I have a complaint I’m just now reminded by and I want to vent: Overuse of words. Just now I ran across someone on a forum who said “I’m literally only there two nights”. Now, I know the word ‘literally’ was used correctly here. Or rather not incorrectly. I’m not complaining about the popular misuse of the word (ok, I am now) where people use it to put further stress on a hyperbole (‘that guy was huge! He was literally as tall as a mountain!’) thereby using the word to do the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to do -namely pointing out that what you’re saying *isn’t* hyperbole.
Don’t get me wrong; I *hate* that too, but what I want to complain about is that the word was not used incorrectly, but needlessly. I assume it was used to stress the fact that staying ‘there’ for two nights was a relatively short period of time, but the word ‘only’ already does that. “I’m (staying) there two nights” is a grammatically correct sentence. Adding ‘only’ adds stress. Adding ‘literally’ does nothing. As described above, the correct use of the word ‘literally’ is to point out that what you are saying is actually true in the exact way you are describing it. It’s mainly used to point out that something that sounds like hyperbole isn’t in fact hyperbole. “I literally haven’t had a proper night of sleep in weeks” is a correct way to use it -provided, of course, that the last night you slept properly was several weeks ago. The conditions to properly use ‘literally’ are a: what you say is factual true, not just what you mean, but also how you say it, and b: it can be (or is) perceived as hyperbole.
If the former is absent, you get men ‘literally as tall as a mountain’. In the case of ‘literally only two nights’, the latter isn’t there. In the context of travelling from place to place (which was, by the way, the context), it isn’t all that uncommon to only stay for a few nights in any one single location. When you say you’re only staying there for two nights, people don’t assume that you might mean four or five nights. Pointing out that you really do mean two days is, therefor, unnecessary.
Now, you might ask yourself ‘why does this matter? Can’t the guy use the words he wants, as long as he’s being grammatically correct?’ Well, no. For two very important reasons: Firstly, it annoys me. Yes, me. I’m selfish. Fuck off.
Secondly, using ‘literally’ like this will mean it’ll go down the same route of ‘awesome’. Awesome used to mean that something was beyond average. Now it still means that, but it also means ‘hey, that’s kinda fun’. Overuse has diluted the meaning of this word to be a common throw-out when you approve of a certain notion. I’m guilty of this too, I confess. This meaning of the word has been ingrained into today’s English-speaking youth. Awesome has been lost to us in that respect, and I fear over-use of literally will mean that word is next. Soon we might literally buy bread in the morning. And it will taste awesome.