The use of the word ‘literally’ has crept back into use in recent years. I am not one for banning things, but I hope we can wean people off it. It is very rare that is used to mean literally. It is used for emphasis but if anything detracts rather than adds to the point being made. Perhaps I should supplement the weekly quiz on Lords of the Blog with one on this site. At the risk of sounding a bit like Quote, Unquote, I could start by asking readers to report occasions when someone uses the word incorrectly or, for that matter, correctly. I suspect cases of correct usage will be extremely rare.
Apart from the use of ‘literally’ in conversation, I am dismayed by the number of times that print journalists clearly do not know the difference between principle and principal and between compliment and complement. I will risk the wrath of some readers by admitting that I also get irritated when I see ‘decimated’ employed to mean ‘wipe out’ rather than to reduce by one in ten. I know we have a living language and meanings change over time, but I still stick to the meaning that should be apparent from the very word.
Then there are the journalists who appear to believe that the past tense of the verb to lead is ‘lead’ and not led. Oh dear.