Not a grammar nazi

You know like, so, um

grammar naziI looked it up: “A grammar nazi is a pedant who compulsively criticizes or corrects people’s grammar mistakes, typos, misspellings, and other errors in speech or writing.” And that never was me, although I have been accused of the same.

Either in this blog or my old Times-Union site, I openly surrendered the fight over its and it’s. I’ve discovered that even people who are otherwise good writers simply can’t get it. It reminds me of a Paul Simon interview about how, when working with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, they just didn’t understand things in minor keys.

The only people I correct over typos are a handful of my fellow bloggers, and then always by email or text. The number of typos I have made on Facebook is enormous, ironically often made worse by autocorrect.
I can NEVER spell tintinnabulation, which means “a ringing or tinkling sound,” without looking it up. For years, I misspelled Pete Townshend’s last name as Townsend.

Basically, if I understand what is intended, I’m good. This is why the new definition of literally so utterly confounds me.

In part, that’s why I’ve adopted the singular they, because, ultimately its, I mean it’s, less confusing.


I’ve come around to accepting the use of the filler in informal speech. What is that? “In linguistics, a filler, filled pause, hesitation marker, or planner is a sound or word that participants in a conversation use to signal that they are pausing to think but are not finished speaking…

“In American English, the most common filler sounds are ah or uh and um … Among younger speakers, the fillers ‘like’, ‘you know’, ‘I mean’, ‘okay’, ‘so’, ‘actually’, ‘basically’, and ‘right?’ are among the more prevalent.”

It’s not as though I like, you know, “like”, especially in its Valley Girl intonation. However, I’ve been watching JEOPARDY – no surprise. During the interview section, Mayim or Ken will ask about something on the contestant card that they fill out. Mayim in particular will ask a question as a statement. “You hung out in the South Pacific with sharks. Tell us about that.” So many contestants will reply with “So” before launching into the story that I’ve given them a pass.

And if you’ve been on enough ZOOM meetings, you know it’s difficult to ascertain when a person is finished talking. A “you know” or “um” is actually a useful cue to keep me from interrupting someone.


Finally, I’ve never been that fussy when the culture tries to verbify a word from another part of speech. I remember that a columnist – I don’t recall who – was fretting about the word “party” becoming a verb! PARTY is a NOUN, they grumbled. Somewhere between Sam Cooke’s “We’re having a party” and Prince’s “We’re gonna party like it’s 1999,” that fight was SO lost.

August rambling: a word with no meaning

keep the lowest-ranked people at the bottom

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“Literally” – you are dead to me

I must purge “literally” from my vocabulary – literally. And by “literally,” I mean the first, original meaning of the term.

I’ve tried, I really have. When Webster and other dictionaries, announced that the second definition of the word “literally” means “figuratively” – “My head literally exploded” – I had some difficulty with that. Still, I tried to shoehorn this new meaning into my vocabulary. Alas, I have failed.

“Literally” served me well. When I wrote, “LOL, literally,” this meant that an audible chuckle erupted from me, not just that I found it quite funny.

I noticed that Arthur@AmeriNZ is not bothered by this. He says, correctly, “English is constantly evolving and changing, and it always has been. New words enter usage and old ones die out.” And so I noted at the time that it didn’t bother me. But the more I thought about it, the more I was irritated by the change.

So while using literally to mean figuratively may be OK (for some), what do I use when I REALLY, REALLY mean literally? How can I make this clear to the reader/listener?

Therefore, I must sadly conclude that the word “literally” has been rendered useless to me. If it doesn’t mean one thing, but rather the thing OR its opposite, then it doesn’t mean anything at all.

Thus, I must purge it from my vocabulary – literally. And by “literally,” I mean the first, original meaning of the term.

Goodness, I’ll miss you, Literally. You were just the right word to convey my feelings. Your cousins Exactly, Precisely, Actually, Really, Truly are just not the same, especially Really, which has attitude: “Oh, REALLY?” Doesn’t sound sincere. I’ll probably start using Actually, but it doesn’t have the same linguistic heft.

Goodbye, old friend.

Stolen from me, but with a new paragraph.

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