Literally, it’s overused.

My husband is on the warpath.  He’s launched a campaign to rid society’s everyday lexicon of a particular adverb:  literally.  Okay, he’s not literally painting his face, wielding a flaming pair of scissors and exorcising every dictionary of mention of “literally”.  He’s just obnoxiously calling anyone out when they use the word.

Now, until he initiated this tirade, I was oblivious to the actual overuse of the adverb in daily conversation.  But after opening my ears a bit, I see his point. During a three hour span one morning, I heard the word “literally” used nine times by either radio or television talking heads. I won’t name names, but Matt Lauer, can you pull out the thesaurus?

Not only is it frequently used, but, often times, its use is redundant. Anyone of those offenders would take the quotation marks out of the third sentence in the previous paragraph and use it as is. See what I mean?

Last night, my daughter’s trainer was attempting to explain why the horse was jumping the way he was.  She said: “You literally have to hold your hand this way to give the horse direction.”  Did she need the word “literally”?  Nope. My daughter wouldn’t want to figuratively hold her hands a certain way, would she?  So why does the word creep in when someone is giving directions or recounting an actual event that literally happened?  Beats me.  But it’s become the adverb du jour and no one—aside from my husband and perhaps the ghost of Ernest Hemingway–seems to mind it’s over usage.  In fact, people tend to want to embellish their thoughts with as much extra verbiage as possible.  Maybe they think it makes them sound smart.

Hey, I’ve got nothing against a little verbose language.  It beats the teenage shoulder shrug or eye roll any day.  In fact, I’m a big wordsmith.  I love introducing synonyms throughout my writing so as not to over use a particular word.  Unlike my husband, I don’t get easily peeved at a preponderance of adverbs.  It’s usually the word “like” that sends me ranting.  I thought I had purged my son of his “valley speak” years ago; but, then he went to college, and this ugly habit of punctuating every other word with “like” has come roaring back.

My daughter goes through phases with “catch phrase” words.  A few years ago, everything was “epic”.  Now days, the world is “totally ironic”.  I think it’s  totally ironic that she doesn’t get it when I call her Alanis. I literally laugh until I cry. 🙂

What about you?  Are there any frequently used popular phrases or words that annoy you?

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About Tracy Solheim

Best-selling author of the Out of Bounds series--sexy, contemporary sports romance novels. See what she's up to at www.tracysolheim.com.

Posted on April 27, 2012, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Love this post, Tracy! Everything you said is so true! I haven’t noticed the overuse of literally, but I’m sure to do so now. My problem is catch words. I said ‘actually’ so much that I didn’t realize my overuse until I heard it repeated by my children. Now I’m stuck on ‘absolutely.’ I know I overuse it, but can’t seem to stop. And don’t get me started on the kids using ‘like.’ My husband calls it “Scooby Doo talk” and it drives us both crazy! This is a great reminder to think before we speak.

  2. Like.

    When does this junior high, preteen’s staple go out of fashion? To get my daughter to stop using it seven times in one sentence, I’d repeat the word every time she used it. She had no idea she used it so often.
    Literally. No idea.

    Fun post! thanks.

  3. I was literally laughing out loud. You have such a way with words in your writing. And my favorite overused word? “Totally”. Which is probably a bit like “literally”. It’s literally overused. Like, totally overused.
    Patti

  4. Tracy, I got a kick out of how the trainer used the word. LOL! I think as a society, we pick up these words without thinking, and they soon become a normal and habitual part of our vocabulary. And you know how ard habits are to break!

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