March 9th, 2015


Like, literally.

Our trip to Disneyland last week got off to a bit of a rocky start. Whenever Gaston comes down to visit, he passes some of the time on the long drive by talking to us on the phone. So before he arrived, we knew that he had started watching Fullmetal Alchemist (finally watching anime! yay!), but that he had trouble with it because he's not a big fan of subtitles and the Japanese voices were so shrill and annoying (I don't think we can be friends anymore, but at least we learned that Netflix's audio default is Japanese). He figured out how to switch it to the dub, and it was so much better (I really don't think we can be friends anymore), but the story was weird because of the nonlinear narrative (see previous parenthetical). (Of course we're still friends, but it's going to be a long time before we can talk about anime.)

So we were in a bit of an argumentative mood when we went to Disneyland that day, which may or may not be why we had so many pointless arguments. One such argument involved use of the word "literally," which is something that's been on my mind on and off for a long time anyway. He mentioned something about how if you ask people in the LDS church if they believe we're saved by grace, more than half of them will literally say no. (I think the best way to describe the LDS view of how you're saved is, "You're saved by grace, if you're sincerely willing to work for it." Most people seem to interpret this as, "you're saved by works.")

Now technically Gaston's use of the word literally was correct--they did literally say no (or so I imagine; I didn't ask these people myself). But I feel like the usage wasn't necessarily appropriate--how else would they say no but literally? Well, when I asked that question, he pointed out that there are all manner of ways to say no without literally saying no, but whether or not they said "nuh-uh" or anything like that wouldn't have affected the meaning of the sentence, or its impact.

I guess what I want to say is that my opinion is that literally only increases the impact of a phrase if there's an implied hyperbole or figure of speech. For example, one time we got rides from a friend of ours who had been living out of her car for a couple of months. The car literally was packed from floor to ceiling with stuff. I think "literally" is appropriate there, because without it, you might think it had a lot of stuff in it, but not that much stuff in it. But I put "literally" there because the pile of stuff really did touch the ceiling. If I said, "There was literally a pile of stuff in her car," you'd be like, "Uh...yeah. So?"

So when people say "literally" in situations like Gaston's, I tend to think, "As opposed to figuratively [figuratively saying no, in that case]." And that's how we got into an argument that we probably should have avoided by not policing someone else's word choices. And yet here I am, rambling about it on LiveJournal.

Today I'm thankful for making good progress on work so far today, having a victim express an interest in joining a cosplay group (joke's on me--I would be making all the costumes, as if I had time for that), Page eventually understanding that no we really can't let her sit on either keyboard today, people who understand quality voice acting, and finding a jumprope at the grocery store.