The discussion of “literally” on page 231 refers to the ballyhooed August 2013 news item about Merriam-Webster and Cambridge added to their dictionaries a new definition of literally that means “not literally true.” The explanation was that the definition should reflect the fact that so many people today use the word this way (i.e., incorrectly). By this logic, “supposably” and “irregardless” will undoubtedly be added to the dictionary, and plurals should end with an ’s. And you kids get off my lawn! (figuratively)
Gratuitous photo of Feyd Rautha (Sting) wearing nothing but a fancy codpiece in David Lynch’s 1984 big-screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune.
However, as National Geographic points out, the non-literal usage of “literally” has a two hundred-year history in the English language. So arguably these dictionary definitions are simply catching up with the Oxford English Dictionary, which has listed the secondary meaning of “literally” since 1903 without any blow-ups, literally or figuratively.
Speaking of literally…the Bible is a text that many people read literally (either definition of the word may apply). The mention on page 231 of the number 144,000 refers to the last book in the Bible. Revelation makes two references to this number: In chapter 7, 12,000 members of each of the twelve tribes of Israel (12 x 12,000 = 144,000) are sealed, saved or redeemed from the tribulations visited upon the earth. Then in chapter 14, we hear of 144,000 who are sealed with the name of God upon their foreheads, and who sing a new song before the throne. Naturally, opinions differ as to whether this number is to be read literally.
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