I Literally Just Broke Up With English
Actually, I did not just break up with English. In order to have literally just broken up with English, that I'm not seeing any entity named English in the first place notwithstanding, I would have had to have picked up my phone, called English, and when it went to voicemail because she's inevitably busy tonguing the scrotum of the last dipshit who used "your" instead of "you're," shouted, "Look you doss cunt, we're through. I've had enough of your bullshittery and waffling flim-flammery! The only thing you can remain constant about is your resolution to continually change in idiotic ways. I won't be able to talk about this because I'll be playing tennis. We playin' on the moon, bitch; Don't call me!"
I have done nothing of the kind. I would if I could, but I am absolutely comfortable saying that I figuratively just broke up with English. What has English done, you may ask, to merit such scorn and derision?
Since the early 20th century, literally has been widely used as an intensifier meaning "in effect, virtually," a sense that contradicts the earlier meaning "actually, without exaggeration:" The senator was literally buried alive in the Iowa primaries. The parties were literally trading horses in an effort to reach a compromise. The use is often criticized; nevertheless, it appears in all but the most carefully edited writing. Although this use of literally irritates some, it probably neither distorts nor enhances the intended meaning of the sentences in which it occurs. The same might often be said of the use of literally in its earlier sense "actually:" The garrison was literally wiped out: no one survived.
Oh no, you might think, it's not English's fault! She can't be blamed for being assraped by the multitudes of dipshits who chronically misuse words to the point that their meaning evolves any more than a victim who is literally raped. While I agree that one ought not to blame the victim in such cases, that's not what this is about.
English isn't raped so much as she's gang-banged. In fact, she seems to like it. Hold on. My phone is literally ringing.
"Hello? Look, I told you not to call me, and- what? No! It's not part of your beauty as a language. It's fucking stupid! If language never evolved, we'd never evol- huh? Are you fucking high? That's the most retarded thing I've ever heard! No, no, no, no, NO! I'm throwing my phone into the sun and getting a new number! Fuck you!"
You see, my phone wasn't literally ringing. It was figuratively ringing. This should illustrate how asinine it is for one word to have completely opposite meanings. According to my lunatic whore of an ex, English, it's quite alright to use either term interchangeably, or to use "literally" to add emphasis.
"Wait, wait, wait," you might say. "You're blaming English for something some dictionary said?" Not at all. I'm blaming English for something English does; the dictionary merely describes it. A man watching a video of his wife screwing his neighbor doesn't hate the videotape (or DVD-R or whatever it is these days). He hates the wife and likely the neighbor. All I'm saying is don't shoot the messenger.
The usage note would have us believe that this dual, diametrically opposed meaning doesn't tend to muddy such meaning because your average Wal-Mart customer is sharp enough to infer from context which meaning is appropriate on a case-by-case basis. I have to accede that this is probably true. Only your most beetle-browed of mullet fans would be alarmed that a Senator was in fact buried alive in an area known as "the Iowa primaries." If it's true that people are going to tend to understand the use of metaphor, why use "literally" at all? Why not just use the bloody shodfucking metaphor, eh?
"The Senator was buried alive in the Iowa primaries!"
That's so much crisper without a "literally" flopping around pointlessly like a dick on a hooker. Any time "literally" is used (misused in my neglected opinion) in this way, it could be dropped and the sentence would be better for it.
It would seem we slice through this problem with liberal and sub-conscious use of Occam's razor. When that friend texts us, "OMG dude, I literally just fucked the shit out of Sharon!" we automatically assume that he had rigorously satisfying sex with a no doubt bored, possibly drunk, and immediately regretful Sharon as opposed to assuming he's hoping we'll pick up some Febreeze, new sheets, and possibly a mattress pad for him. We would probably come to the correct conclusion even more quickly if he were to say, "Dude, I literally just fucked Sharon's brains out!" because such a statement must be figurative as the literal interpretation hints at situations best left unconsidered.
Still, "literally" is unnecessary. It doesn't emphasize your meaning. Much like a popped collar on a pink polo shirt, it emphasizes that you're a token douchebag.