Is It Time to Put an End to the Word Literally?

By Phin Upham

It’s a sociological truth that language evolves over time, with societies having their own interpretation on the meaning of a word. In some cases, this can mean that its meaning is subverted entirely. But according to Martha Gill in The Guardian, this isn’t always a good thing. Her example: the current dual usage of the word “literally.”

The original definition of “literally” is to state a literal action or meaning of a phrase; for example, you might say that a driver took instructions to go straight through a stop light “literally” and ran the light. But it’s becoming commonly accepted to use the word to describe things that are not “literally true” but to connote extra emphasis or strong feelings.

The end result, according to Gill, is a word that is at war with itself and is now devoid of meaning. Gill recommends avoiding the usage of the word until a consensus can be reached on its dueling potential meanings.

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About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or LinkedIn page.