Literally, I’m so not exaggerating!

Eunice Choi/Staff

The Clog has much respect for the English language and grammar. However, it never fails to amuse us when the use of certain words become really unnecessary hyperboles, so natural that the words’ definitions start morphing to mean the complete opposite. An example would be the word “literally.” BuzzFeed brought attention to the fact that Webster’s, Google and Oxford’s dictionaries are all incorrectly defining the word. Guess they think they’re hip for keeping up with the linguistic trends?

The term “literally” in it’s original sense means to state something without exaggeration. If you were to exaggerate, the more appropriate term to use would be “figuratively.” Makes sense? But “literally” is starting to mean both its original definition and serve as a substitute for “figuratively.” Try to wrap your head around this – or maybe it’s not that difficult because literally all of us today use it in the sense that we’re emphasizing and exaggerating something. For example, haven’t we heard these at least once in our lives?

– “Omg, I literally had like five handles of Vitali last night, I’m literally not even joking.”
– “I literally died with laughter after seeing that YouTube video of those adorable puppies.”
– “Bro, I literally made over 50 submissions in one go to the UC Berkeley Hookups page.”

It’s okay, the Clog totally understands — and we admit that we use the term incorrectly ourselves. But we began wondering how widespread this use of a disfigured word is on our campus and conducted a brief experiment. We asked students from various majors to describe their struggles with academics, taking careful notice of how they described their experiences.

  1. Pre-Med: “I literally live off Adderall and coffee during the weeks of Chem and Bio exams. Also, some freshman MCB major asked me this yesterday but I literally have no clue what ‘camaraderie’ even means.”
  2. Philosophy: “The professor literally kills my Philosophy papers and self-esteem – constantly.”
  3. Cognitive Science: “I literally get my ass beaten to death, eaten, sh*t on and pissed on by the CS 61 series.”
  4. English: “I literally want to pull an Edna Pontellier right now because I can’t finish the last 19 pages of my thesis paper that is due tomorrow.”
  5. Architecture: *No comment, was too busy making a 5 ft. tall cathedral model with newspaper strips.*
  6. EECS: “I literally can’t get my GPA to hit the 2.5 mark or my other EECS friends to leave my apartment earlier than 5 in the morning because of a project.”
  7. Media Studies: “It’s literally the worst thing that I’m unable to hit on the hot athlete sitting next to me in MS 101.”
  8. Linguistics: “It literally drives me to the tip of insanity how everyone is using the word ‘literally’ wrong!”

On second thought, the Clog isn’t sure if these are improper uses of “literally” because … well, none of these look like exaggerations. They could just be real lives of Berkeley students trying to survive.

Wonderful! Not only does Cal keep true to its promise of rigorous academia but also has students that are painfully aware of and dedicated to proper English grammar. Go Bears!

Contact Eunice Choi at [email protected]