Literally Correct Grammar

Mar 8 2013 @ 12:10pm

David Haglund defends the secondary definition of “literally”:

I recommend reading (or re-reading) Jesse Sheidlower’s Slate piece about literally, published back in 2005. Sheidlower, as it happens, is an editor at large of the Oxford English Dictionary. He points out people have used literally as an intensifier for statements that were not literally true since at least the late 18th century. And it wasn’t just anyone using the word this way: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain—any number of respectable writers have thus employed literally. In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, for instance, Mark Twain writes that Tom “was literally rolling in wealth.” But Tom is not, in fact, rolling around “in a literal, exact, or actual sense.”