Editorial on ELTNEWS.com
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Editorial

Sentences like the one above have been the most common tongue-in-cheek reaction to this news reported yesterday by CNN:

This is going to give grammarians a headache, literalists a migraine and language nerds a nervous breakdown.

The definition of literally is no longer the literal definition of literally.

Gizmodo has discovered Google's definition for literally includes this: "Used to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling."

Language is of course constantly in flux, forever evolving and being reinvented, we all know this. But sometimes the changes are annoying in the extreme to the above-mentioned grammarians, literalists, and language nerds. And editors. Oh, and parents.

Of my pet peeves, words or phrases that when uttered bring to mind fingernails on a blackboard (remember those?), the one that offends my ears the most is "like."

As in, like, when my daughter can't put a complete, like, sentence together without, like...well, you get the idea.

Rightly or wrongly, I've always associated this verbal tic with California. My pre-teen daughter may have picked it up from watching too much Disney Channel, or from American friends at school, or maybe it's now universal among her peers. I hope not.

Habitual use of words such as "like" can, I think, be blamed on laziness. Now that's a personal trait I admit I'm all too familiar with - I would have called it "lack of intellectual rigour", but that would have taken too long to type. But in the spirit of meaning what you say and saying what you mean, I try to make my daughter aware of any verbal laziness she becomes susceptible to (an earlier one was reacting to any and every situation with "Oh, my God!).

In my role as an editor, I'm not fanatical about these things. And this being a site for English teachers, comments are not strewn with non-words (irregardless, supposably) and the misuse of words (literally, totally).

But some things I can't just ignore. Like, you know?


I'd love to hear what words and phrases get under your skin. So head on over to our Facebook page and share your pet peeves.



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