Because, people, this word does not mean seriously. Or a lot. Or coincidentally. Or exclamation point! Or extra emphasis.
It means the opposite of figuratively. Like, I was literally hanging from that rock by my fingernails--yeah, they scratched lines down the surface of the rock and then ripped right off, because, well, fingernails aren't that strong.
As opposed to, I was literally hanging by my fingernails; meaning, I was figuratively hanging by my fingernails.
Or, I was literally drowning in homework. Meaning, of course, metaphorical drowning. Because literal drowning in homework would seriously be a LOT of homework. Those witch-hunting people of 1600s Salem, Mass., used to call that being "pressed to death," and it's one of the things they liked to do to witches. They had some creative ideas. Literally.
Maybe that's the kind of action Jerry Falwell meant we should take when he once said, if we don't act now, the "Homosexual steamroller will literally crush all decent men, women, and children who get in its way and our nation will pay a terrible price."
Yep. Watch out for the gay-roller. It's coming down your street.
I also hear this kind of thing a lot: She was literally just eating rice cakes when she turned on the TV and someone was literally warning the world about how toxic rice cakes are. Yes, that would be a coincidence. No, the word "literally" isn't the one you want. Mainly because I'm sick of hearing it everywhere I literally go. Yes, every single time. Not really.
I'm going to start using figuratively as an emphasis word.
Figuratively, I hate cheese.
Figuratively, I was walking down the street when I ran into my good friend, Bob, who also happened figuratively to be walking down the street. So we took a figurative walk together into fantasy land.
Which is where I mostly live anyway. There's very little that's literal in my world. Except during bill-pay time. Or tax time. Which is probably why I find the word "literally" so figuratively grating: because, seriously, people, who wants to live in a literal world?
Fantasy is so much better. Yes, literally.