HOLLYWOOD, CA – Now I know this news is a year old now, but I guess I’ve had my head literally/figuratively under a rock because it was just the other night that my wife was bitching about the fact that the definition of “literally” has now been expanded to include the meaning “figuratively” and it literally/figuratively blew my mind. My head literally/figuratively exploded.
Folks, if you’ve been reading my posts on this site–and first of all, I thank you–you know I’ve never been a badge carrying member of the Grammar Police. I enjoy run-on sentences; double-dashes to insert separate but connected thoughts (like my gratitude in the previous sentence); parenthesis (like the ones you’re reading in between right now); multiple semi-colons for long lists like this one; and I truly love that most dramatic of pauses that come from…ellipses. Often, as you can see, I’ll do all of these things at once and hope they manage to convey my rambling stream of consciousnesses in a semi-coherent and entertaining way. Otherwise, Strunk & White can kiss my ass.
I love playing with words. Ask my (mysteriously absent from here lately) colleague Cookie, in our Words With Friends games we’ll usually eschew higher scoring options if a funny, dirty word can be played instead. I make up words all the time if they sound good, and I don’t usually bother with these things you call “quotation marks” unless I’m actually/literally quoting somebody, though I find their misuse both confounding and hilarious.
I have no problem with words that can have two different meanings, neatly (if perhaps pretentiously) called “Janus words,” the way “bad” can also mean “good.” I’ve read some contrarian linguists defend this new expansion for “literally,” pointing out that Mark Twain and Charles Dickens among other literal/figurative, literary/figutary (?) giants at one time or another were guilty of it. Of course, these writers used a lot of words that aren’t in the slightest bit of use any longer, but precedence is precedence I guess to the modern grammar maven. I think it’s funny hearing the word “ax” instead of “ask,” but I don’t want it in the dictionary. English is a tricky, complicated language–just listen to Shaquille O’Neal try to speak it–but there’s some beauty in its malleability…within reason. I can’t help it, but I think less of people who don’t know their they’re from their there, or when your you’re is meant as a possessive. If’s a slippery slope, people…but I guess it’s inevitable. The Dumblocks are always going to win.
What does any of this have to do with sports? Not much I guess, though I can imagine you all can find plenty of examples of the Dumblocks winning, and I’ll leave it to you to give me some in the comments.
The Grinding Ax, tomorrow.