Sunday, November 13, 2005

Abraham Lincoln: pregnant with baby soldiers!

I've been meaning to write about this for a while, but you know, laziness and all. Anyway, this article in Slate is really interesting.

If you want the quick synopsis, it's about how a lot of people use the word "literally" as emphasis--ie, to mean "figuratively," or in the exact opposite way that I've always thought it should be used. Apparently there's a lot of literary history to this alternate usage: Louisa May Alcott ("the land literally flowed with milk and honey"), Mark Twain (Tom Sawyer was "literally rolling in wealth"), and even good old F. Scott Fitzgerald (Gatsby "literally glowed").

WTF? (Another acronym I like.)

The Slate article also talks about other words that are used in contradictory ways--they're called "Janus words," "contranyms," or "auto-antonyms." I've read about these before, and they're awesome. Like scan ("skim" versus "read carefully")--the 2 antonymic meanings are both commonly used!

There's even a blog that tracks the proper use/misuse of literally. (My favorite example relates to the title of this post.) I also love the thought of J. Lo literally being a lightning rod.

3 Comments:

Anonymous rotorglow said...

GAHH! Yes! This makes me crazy. See also "quantum leap," used as if it's a huge leap, when, in fact, it's the smallest leap possible.

Perhaps it's good there's an Eagles game for me to be watching.....

8:43 PM  
Blogger winnekat said...

Uh oh. I, of course, am watching a crappy tv show on the WB, but I'm switching back to the Eagles game at the commercials. And Dallas just got 14 points between the last 2 commercial breaks. Eeek.

Also, I've NEVER realized that a "quantum leap" should be something small, NOT big. But yeah, a quantum is very very small (I at least least learned THAT with my chemistry degree!). Good call!

9:18 PM  
Anonymous rotorglow said...

"Eeek" is right. Turns out I was watching a crappy TV show too, but it was on ABC and for some reason Al Michaels and John Madden were the narrators. And there were none of the trappings of other crappy shows (hotties? good hair? bad dialogue?).

6:07 AM  

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