Basically, it literally was a very unique thing I never actually said.

basically literally[Not a Reblog, so much as a re-share…? A re-post. Whatever].

How a word evolves from its prescribed definition to its connotated vernacular, I do not know. Some make sense, such as “cool” and “hot,” implying how you might feel about something that turns you off or turns you on.

But some words are simply over used to the point of having almost no meaning anymore. “Actually,” “basically,” and “literally” are three of these words. Oh, and “very unique” are also misused words that genuinely bug me.

The use of “actually” has come to be used as a sort-of exclamation point. For example, the sentence, “He actually spent time figuring it out,” must mean, “He was so moved by the problem he went out of his way to set aside time to work through it. Can you believe that?!” That’s fine, but only if that is actually the case. If that is not the case, the sentence ought to read, “The problem needed solving, so he spent some time working it out.”

In another example, there is simply nothing so astonishing about the statement, “I actually went to the store to find the replacement part.” Unless our world has become so normalized to shopping online, and it has become unheard of to have to make a trip to a brick-and-mortar mercantile, there is no reason to emphasize the hard-fact-reality of making a necessary errand to a store. Since we are not yet at that point where we never have to go out of our homes to do anything, let alone shop, the sentence ought to read, “I went to the store to find the replacement part.”

The use of “literally” has also come to be some sort of replacement for the exclamation point. If something is not literal, then it’s figurative, or implied. I think we are all agreed on this. So, why say, “He literally picked this thing up off of the floor”? It means… what? Either he picked a thing up off of the floor, or he did not. If he did not pick a thing up off of the floor, he, “…thought about it, and wanted to pick the thing up off of the floor, but for whatever reason, decided to leave it there,” or… “He thought about it and then picked the thing up off of the floor.” It can’t get more literal than that.

Here’s another one: Think about the statement, “I literally laughed my head off.” This is not a statement of fact, especially if the person who made such a statement shows no physical signs of having had their head removed (and, presumably, surgically reattached). Now, laughing one’s head off is a statement of fact if, 1) there are obvious Frankenstein’s monster surgical scars around the person’s neck, or 2) they are explaining as to how their head, which they now hold in their hands, came to be detached from their body from the simple act of laughing. A lot. Otherwise, the sentence should read, “I laughed so hard I thought my head would pop off!”

Now, the use of “basically” really irritates me, especially when someone starts a sentence with the word and then rattles on and on. There is nothing basic about any subject when you are compelled to rattle on and on about it in some detail. The statement, “Basically, she had had an exceptionally bad day,” works. Not, “Basically, she was really pissed off because she was late for work because (blah blah blah…) and so her boss said she had to (blah blah blah…) and then her computer crashed (blah blah blah…) and the school called to say she had to come get her kid who was barfing in the bathroom (blah blah blah…) and then the car got a flat tire (blah blah blah…) and so she was upset because she was having such a bad day.” That statement is complex, not basic.

Lastly, and along the same lines as the others, is the use of “very unique.” Something either is or is not unique. Stop saying “very unique.” Just, stop it. Nothing can be more unique. There’s a wonderful scene in one of the earlier episodes of “The West Wing,” in which Pres. Bartlett makes the same complaint. I recall the first time I saw that episode, I cheered as if my home team had scored the winning goal. A thing can be pretty rare, unusual, atypical, uncommon, hardly known, special, distinctive, but not “very unique.” If it is, truly, a one of a kind thing, then it is unique. The planet Earth is unique among the other planets of its solar system in that it supports life as we know it. It is unparalleled. Matchless. Irreplaceable. But, basically, it is not, nor ever can it actually be, very unique. Literally.

Originally posted for another WordPress DP prompt (verbal ticks?) but re-posted for today’s second go ’round of:

10 thoughts on “Basically, it literally was a very unique thing I never actually said.

  1. Your post made me think of two more… Basically, this is literally a very fine analysis of these egregious misuses of these words, actually.


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