I’ve always considered myself a sesquipedalian sort of chap. My aunt once said I was the ‘Nigel Mansell of words’. To be honest I don’t really understand the relation and I think she got her metaphor a bit jumbled but I appreciated the sentiment all the same.
Imagine my dismay then, a couple of days ago, while casually padding around Facebook prior to work when a story popped up on my newsfeed that literally punched my brain right in its think bollocks. Literally.
The story in question was from the BBC news website (no less) heralding the adaptation of the word ‘literally’ to be used metaphorically. The example cited was shit-witted football jeggings mannequin Jamie Redknapp’s regular comical misuse of the word ‘literally’ during his frankly agonising punditry.
This causes several issues for me:
- The word literal (and literally) is pretty literal in its meaning. For something literal to be used metaphorically is a pointless use of this word and, at the risk of sounding like a word snob, is born out of stupidity rather than kooky modern adaptation. Similar to a tautology such as ‘a little midget’ or a ‘hot fire’, it’s just a casual everyday misuse which while rattles the brain of pedants like me, is just something that often does, and rightfully should, go unnoticed.
It should not – under any circumstance – cause the adaptation of the official definition of a word.
- Nothing Jamie Redknapp does, says or thinks should – for the love of bastarding crikey – have any impact on the Oxford English Dictionary.
- The reason cited by Senior OED editor Fiona MacPherson was “If enough people use a word in a particular way… it will find its way into the dictionary.”
This is utterly ludicrous. I know numerous people who use the word ‘Pacific’ instead of ‘specific’ as some sort of weird collective blind spot. Each time I hear this it kicks its way into my ears wearing shit-smeared army boots. Nevertheless a lot of people say it. Must we adapt the definition of both specific and Pacific to be interchangeable as any git sees fit?
In light of these reasons I would like two things from you:
- A better explanation for your reasoning for the change in definition of the word literally.
- Consider the input of a phrase popularly used by a lot of people. There have been many weird phrases just added to the dictionary willy-nilly of late (that too, probably) and a glaring omission of popular nomenclature is:
(Phrase) ‘Pipe me off’:
1. A sign of indifference/disdain i.e. “The Oxford English Dictionary can pipe me off after that literally thing.“
2. A literal meaning of sexual congress. “Louise, it’s me Jamie Redknapp, you’re going to have to peel these trousers off with an ice pick if you want to pipe me off”.
3. PMO (acronym). “OED? PMO more like”
I thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from you. If I fail to get a response, I will literally kick myself to death.