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Friday, May 22, 2015

Grammar rant of the week.

I continue to be depressed by otherwise intelligent and well-educated people who misuse words.  For example figuratively/literally and famous/notorious/infamous.

I know that "literally" is now being used as a form of emphasis but that doesn't make it right. If you say "He was so mad he literally blew his head off," I expect to see a gun and bits of brain spread around or at least evidence of a strong wind.  If you just meant to say the guy was really mad, then just say he was really, really mad or use the word "figuratively", but save the word "literally" for when he really does it. And stop overusing the word "actually."  My God, it's getting boring when every statement is preceded by "actually."

A more serious error in word usage is to use the words famous, notorious, and infamous as if they were synonyms.  They are not.  Notorious means being famous for having done something evil as does infamous. Famous implies being well-known for  something well done.  Newscasters are famous for this error, but then most of them are idiots.  Don't be an idiot.  "Enormity" has now become a synonym for something huge having almost completely lost the more subtle meaning of "monstrous wickedness."  There's nothing wrong with using the word "enormous" to mean something huge.  Save "enormity" for the Holocaust or other genocide.

By using these words incorrectly, the language is diminished and subtleties of usage are completely lost.

Next week "I" and "me."
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