1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

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mathmannix
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby mathmannix » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:01 pm UTC

Okay, so I guess the question here is, which side of the argument is Randall on? Did he switch sides since http://xkcd.com/725/?

For what it's worth, I will still campaign against misuse of "literally" - it's a clarification, and you can't misuse it. It's like accessing the rules behind language, metalanguage or something, and saying, "Aside to the audience: the following is NOT a hyperbole, it is a fact." Then if you say "died laughing" and you don't really mean it, you should be banned from existence for violating the rules in one of the worst possible ways.
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby goofy » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:09 pm UTC

mathmannix wrote:Okay, so I guess the question here is, which side of the argument is Randall on? Did he switch sides since http://xkcd.com/725/?


I think both that comic and the new one are clearly poking fun at some people's irrational peeves.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby speising » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:11 pm UTC

doogly wrote:I agree with the comic 100%. Nobody should give a shit about "literally." The subjunctive is my favorite grammar nibble.


at least, nobody should literally give a shit about "literally", please.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby CasualSax » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:32 pm UTC

I understand the usefulness of figuratively and literally being identifiers...but we just don't need them. I can't remember the last time someone said "I just literally shit a brick!" and someone took them seriously. The typical response is, "No shit?"

The situation just doesn't come up. If the context isn't clear by your usage, your hyperbole is not large enough.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Netzach » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:33 pm UTC

As a non-native English speaker, I must say that these kinds of things are what make translations very difficult sometimes. In Swedish we have bokstavligen, which means "to the letter", and bildligen, which means "as pictured". These can be quite tricky to translate since the connotation in sarcasm and hyperboles are not used in Swedish. Do you have any suggestions as how to solve that problem?

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Oktalist » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:37 pm UTC

A world where "literally" cannot be used figuratively would be a grey and soulless world indeed.
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby musicgeek » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:44 pm UTC

Nope, can't bring myself to agree with this one. I don't actively fight the improper usage, but it's troubling - unlike the less/fewer debate, or even the use of the subjunctive (and I like the subjunctive!) the misuse of the word actually undermines the correct usage. If "literally" doesn't have to mean "in actual fact" (or some semblance thereof), then the word is effectively meaningless when properly applied. Used correctly, it's a simple, concise, accurate way to state a that something is being expressed factually and without hyperbole.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby endolith » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:44 pm UTC

undecim wrote:I used gimp and the "Difference" mode to make sure that they were really the same, and found that the two futures were literally half a pixel offset from each other.


Cross your eyes so that the two images line up with each other. Anything that's different will flicker or pop out in 3D, as each eye sees it differently.

cellocgw wrote:shift, downscale, and viola!


_

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby J Thomas » Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:01 pm UTC

blowfishhootie wrote:
dash wrote:I don't get it.


It doesn't make any difference at all if someone uses the word "literally" to your liking, so it's just not worth arguing over.


It's worse than that.

Randall is saying that it doesn't make any difference whether you spend your time arguing about the word "literally" or not. It isn't worth fighting over. It isn't worth stopping fighting over.

He's saying that if you give up this fight, it will make no difference in the world. The opportunity cost of your arguing over this irrelevant issue is zero. If you weren't doing this, you wouldn't be doing anything that made the slightest difference, anyway.

You do not matter. What you do with your time does not matter. Whatever you do with your life will have no more effect than voting for Mondale.

Possibly I may be taking this farther than Randall intended.
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby paulrowe » Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:29 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:I hope so, since that's literally not true. Re-process the image at 2X resolution, shift, downscale, and viola!

I'd be impressed if such a simple procedure rendered a landscape into a string instrument.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Yosarian2 » Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:45 pm UTC

Neither one of those futures look all that great.

How do I get the future where everyone is flying around in jetpacks? Do I have to win the fight about the meaning of the word "ironic" to get that one?

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby jozwa » Fri Sep 14, 2012 3:10 pm UTC

melgior wrote:
McTricks wrote:First I read today's cyanide and happiness, then this.

I did the exact same thing. For everybody else:
http://www.explosm.net/comics/2923/

Darn, I was gonna post that. But to me that was yesterday's C&H. But I don't know how the time zones go with these.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Zinho » Fri Sep 14, 2012 3:23 pm UTC

Netzach wrote:As a non-native English speaker, I must say that these kinds of things are what make translations very difficult sometimes. In Swedish we have bokstavligen, which means "to the letter", and bildligen, which means "as pictured". These can be quite tricky to translate since the connotation in sarcasm and hyperboles are not used in Swedish. Do you have any suggestions as how to solve that problem?

If you're looking for actual career advice, you've perhaps come to the wrong place. Informally, though, I'll take a shot at answering...
If I were you, I'd go one of two ways:

  1. substitute a word in the target language that carrys the sarcasm/hyperbole weight
  2. ignore the word entirely, as several posters here have suggested the speaker should have done initially.
I've worked as a linguist before, and while my employers would frequently say they wanted word-for-word translations they were almost never pleased with the result of the process. They were always primarily interested in understanding the content, and secondarily (if at all) interested in details of word choice.

I have a similar philosophy with translating figures of speech: I'd translate the English phrase "you can't have your cake and eat it too" to the Italian equivalent "you can't have a full bottle and a drunk wife". Italians don't have the same concept of cake as Americans have, and a literal translation of the English words confuses them. On the other hand, going from Italian to English I'd go word-for-word into English because it's a wittier turn of phrase, and easily understandable. Use your best judgement 8-)

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby endolith » Fri Sep 14, 2012 3:29 pm UTC

Zinho wrote:the Italian equivalent "you can't have a full bottle and a drunk wife". ... it's a wittier turn of phrase, and easily understandable.


I don't understand it. :/

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby goo50chang » Fri Sep 14, 2012 3:49 pm UTC

There's not much to the joke, so I'm going to go way out on a limb and assume you actually don't understand, and also that you aren't trolling.

The word "literally" is not an intensifier. It means "this is actually what happened, I am not using hyperbole." If you say without irony "I am literally shitting bricks" and there are not actual bricks emerging from your asshole, you are doing it wrong.

Yes, I know a handful of you are misusing it ironically. That'd be great if everyone else understood that, but a lot of people genuinely don't, and "literal vs. figurative" is a really useful notion that we need to be able to communicate effectively about. This isn't just a "linguistic drift happens" thing like "whom" becoming "who", this is a word that uniquely describes a valuable concept being gradually erased from popular www.earmaniwatches.com understanding. It's not the end of the world, but it contributes to inarticulate communication in a small, real way.

...And now every time I try to explain this, someone's just gonna post this comic as if it were an actual rebuttal. So, y'know, that figuratively sucks.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Kaden » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:03 pm UTC

This reminds me of a post I wrote on Facebook about a Fox News article reviewing Paul Ryan's RNC speech. Though I'm not a fan of Fox myself by any stretch, I was genuinely impressed with how balanced they were on it for a change, and I wanted to express that on Facebook.

Here's what I wrote:
"WOW. Just... wow. Fox has actually, truly, HONESTLY written a fair and balanced look at Paul Ryan. I can't believe it. I am totally speechless. For the first time, I can say without a hint of sarcasm: Well done, Fox. Well done. *claps*"

And yet, my friends still reacted like, "Yeah, Fox is the worst! I hate them so much!" I was flabbergasted. I had really tried my best to show that my feelings on the issue were genuine, but no one believed me...
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Sprocket » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:37 pm UTC

I think I must just be lucky that I don't often interact with people who use the word "literally" to mean "severe hyperbole". I think it came from people using the word "seriously" to express severity in the same way. "There was like, seriously, a hole the size of Texas." and once "seriously" meant "emphasis" the fact that literally and seriously were already sort of synonyms to mean "real", led to them becoming synonyms in this way. Frankly I think it's a problem.

They aren't conflating it with "figuratively", because they are intending to commit hyperbole, but unfortunately literal happens to be the opposite of hyperbolic, and therefore it doesn't really fit.
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Zinho » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:51 pm UTC

endolith wrote:
Zinho wrote:the Italian equivalent "you can't have a full bottle and a drunk wife". ... it's a wittier turn of phrase, and easily understandable.


I don't understand it. :/

\Zinho checks to see if it's the same person as before... Nope

There's not much to it, but not knowing where your disconnect comes from I'll try to explain without making any assumptions about your background.

Both phrases carry the same meaning of "once something is consumed it is no longer whole", and both phrases are used in their native languages in the same contexts. The literal meaning of the Italian phrase is easy to decode - if you share your wine with your wife there isn't as much for you. The hidden/cultural meaning is that if your wife isn't drunk she won't have sex with you - both an appeal to the audience's sex drive and a thinly veiled insult. Since the literal meaning also presumes that the audience is alcoholic and selfish, it's a three-for-the-price-of-one insult.

The idea of teaching an alcoholic temperance and altruism by appealing to their sex drive is laughably absurd, and says a lot about the Italian culture. The fact that Italians know this is absurd and use the phrase liberally tells you even more.

I love Italians :D

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby endolith » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:15 pm UTC

Zinho wrote:The hidden/cultural meaning is that if your wife isn't drunk she won't have sex with you


Aha!

The thought had never occurred to me. :D

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby thepauly » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:25 pm UTC

Zinho, I have NEVER seen a joke explained so effectively. Well done, sir!

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby thepauly » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:31 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:
thepauly wrote:
undecim wrote:I used gimp and the "Difference" mode to make sure that they were really the same, and found that the two futures were literally half a pixel offset from each other.


Am I the only one to notice that a difference in pixels would literally have to be a whole number?

I hope so, since that's literally not true. Re-process the image at 2X resolution, shift, downscale, and viola!


A pixel (truncated word from "picture element") is the smallest "dot" rendered by your computer. If you blow up a pixel, then split what used to be a pixel in half, then shrink it back down to original size, the pixel will either render or it will not. There is no half way.

Unless, of course, we're talking about a grey-scale, and one pixel is halfway between black and white, while all the others are the same, but now I'm undermining my own argument.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby ShifterCat » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:37 pm UTC

I don't know if anyone's linked to this yet, but there is a great post by Greta Christina about why we need the word literally to remain unadulterated. It's here: http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2007/08/literally.html

tl;dr version: it's an extremely useful word, and we don't have anything to replace it.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby goofy » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:56 pm UTC

To all the people who say "it's a useful word and we have nothing to replace it with" - I'd be more inclined to believe you if I saw real evidence that the "non-figuratively" meaning was useful or necessary, or real evidence that the ambiguity in the word causes any confusion. But I haven't.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby San Fran Sam » Fri Sep 14, 2012 6:13 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
blowfishhootie wrote:
dash wrote:I don't get it.


It doesn't make any difference at all if someone uses the word "literally" to your liking, so it's just not worth arguing over.


It's worse than that.

Randall is saying that it doesn't make any difference whether you spend your time arguing about the word "literally" or not. It isn't worth fighting over. It isn't worth stopping fighting over.

He's saying that if you give up this fight, it will make no difference in the world. The opportunity cost of your arguing over this irrelevant issue is zero. If you weren't doing this, you wouldn't be doing anything that made the slightest difference, anyway.

You do not matter. What you do with your time does not matter. Whatever you do with your life will have no more effect than voting for Mondale.

Possibly I may be taking this farther than Randall intended.


The first rule of Fight Club is not to misuse the word "literally". Oh wait, that's the second rule.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Kit. » Fri Sep 14, 2012 6:20 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
blowfishhootie wrote:
dash wrote:I don't get it.


It doesn't make any difference at all if someone uses the word "literally" to your liking, so it's just not worth arguing over.


It's worse than that.

Randall is saying that it doesn't make any difference whether you spend your time arguing about the word "literally" or not. It isn't worth fighting over. It isn't worth stopping fighting over.

He's saying that if you give up this fight, it will make no difference in the world. The opportunity cost of your arguing over this irrelevant issue is zero. If you weren't doing this, you wouldn't be doing anything that made the slightest difference, anyway.

Actually (and also factually and literally), there is no picture with "if you don't give up".

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Zinho » Fri Sep 14, 2012 6:31 pm UTC

thepauly wrote:A pixel (truncated word from "picture element") is the smallest "dot" rendered by your computer. If you blow up a pixel, then split what used to be a pixel in half, then shrink it back down to original size, the pixel will either render or it will not. There is no half way.

Unless, of course, we're talking about a grey-scale, and one pixel is halfway between black and white, while all the others are the same, but now I'm undermining my own argument.


Image editors capable of subpixel rendering can shift an image by fractions of a pixel by making assumptions about the display; the Wiki page even shows example images and explanatory diagrams.

That being said, for most computer monitors 1/2 pixel is still going to be impossible because the pixel geometry is triangular.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby endolith » Fri Sep 14, 2012 6:34 pm UTC

thepauly wrote:the pixel will either render or it will not. There is no half way.


Maybe you should actually try it before saying that it can't happen?

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby darkwombat » Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:29 pm UTC

This whole discussion is literally making my head figuratively explode. Figuratively, I am literally rolling on the floor laughing at this entertaining discussion.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby MadH » Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:43 pm UTC

goofy wrote:To all the people who say "it's a useful word and we have nothing to replace it with" - I'd be more inclined to believe you if I saw real evidence that the "non-figuratively" meaning was useful or necessary, or real evidence that the ambiguity in the word causes any confusion. But I haven't.


Well, every now and then in my life something ridiculous happens, and I relate it to someone. They think I'm joking, making something up, or otherwise using hyperbole to describe a situation. As soon as I see that confused look, I simply tell them, "No, literally. That literally happened to me." Sometimes, I simply say "Literally" while looking at them pointedly.

For instance, I once was driving down the highway and saw a grand total of 3 separate accidents and one car on fire in the span of 20 minutes of driving. That's pretty unbelievable ("incredible" even). Telling someone, they often didn't believe me. As soon as I whipped out "literally" they knew I wasn't kidding.

Confusion is gone immediately, since I don't misuse the word at all, and they know I mean it when I say it. They could get on with being shocked instead of me trying to explain for another 2 minutes. It's handy because I personally didn't undermine it by using it all the time, so at least people believe ME even if other people use "literally" willy-nilly.

If that's not damn useful, I don't know what else to say. It saves me time. I like having my time for things other than drawn-out explanations.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby Caravelle » Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:50 pm UTC

Okay, I am registering here for no other reason than to WARN YOU ALL THE CAUTIONARY GHOST IS WRONG.

The other day I was reading a news article. That news article made a passing reference to the drug "Krokodil", which, according to the article, "literally rots the flesh of the bones". There were links.

Innocently thinking that by "literally" they meant "figuratively" because srsly, I clicked those links.

THEY DID NOT MEAN "FIGURATIVELY".

I CAN NEVER UNSEE THOSE IMAGES.

So there you are. The cautionary ghost lied. Look up "krokodil" on Google images and see what happens when we abandon the fight over "literally".

KEEP FIGHTING.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby MonkeyBoy » Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:55 pm UTC

operationeisenfaust wrote:but that doesn't mean we should just give up and let language degrade into some kind of phatic grunting or 1984's Newspeak.


Oh me yarm Oh u r such a n00b stfu lol!!!!!

Edited to add: Whaddaya know, apparently this board has an auto-censor that doesn't like the letters o, m, f and g together, and replaces them with "Golly Gosh Darn Gee Whiz." That makes my post markedly less funny.
Last edited by MonkeyBoy on Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:59 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby tallest » Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:57 pm UTC

This use of literally has been around since the 18th century. It has been used by Twain , Joyce, Cooper, Dickens, Thoreau, etc. They are more capable writers than you. Suck it up. Slate
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby JimsMaher » Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:59 pm UTC

Not sure on the math here, but they appear to be offset by figuratively closer to 181 pixels.

In lieu of sharing an action file, instructions for Photoshop CSx.x:
    0: Make sure rulers are shown on edges (ctrl+R) and literally drag a line from the vertical ruler to the middle of the image. (px365)
    1: Select the left half of the image, literally snapping to the middle. (Rectangular Marquee)
    2: Literally Copy. ...
    3: Literally Paste. (Paste)
    4: Layers Tab - change "Normal" to "Difference". (Blending Change) ... the left half of the image should be literally all black.
    5: Filter > Other > Offset ... Horizontal: +181 pixels right, literally. (Offset)

The half a pretzel final offset seems to be more like a third a pretzel, maybe even a quarter pretzel. I'm hungry.

Regardless, the pretzel shift is an artifact of copy-pasting by hand (not with the Offset tool), while having disabled in some relevant manner the Snap To function (View > Snap/Snap To > etc, etc.)

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby goofy » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:02 pm UTC

MadH wrote:
goofy wrote:To all the people who say "it's a useful word and we have nothing to replace it with" - I'd be more inclined to believe you if I saw real evidence that the "non-figuratively" meaning was useful or necessary, or real evidence that the ambiguity in the word causes any confusion. But I haven't.


Well, every now and then in my life something ridiculous happens, and I relate it to someone. They think I'm joking, making something up, or otherwise using hyperbole to describe a situation. As soon as I see that confused look, I simply tell them, "No, literally. That literally happened to me." Sometimes, I simply say "Literally" while looking at them pointedly.


I should revise my statement. I know it's a useful word. And there's no confusion when it is used in its non-figurative sense, as you say. So where's the problem? Most words do have more than one meaning, after all.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby MonkeyBoy » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:04 pm UTC

This would be tough to work into speech, but for written language I propose a solution inspired by Senator Jon Kyl:

When I heard the news I literally* had a heart attack!

*Not intended to be a factual statement.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby dash » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:04 pm UTC

blowfishhootie wrote:It doesn't make any difference at all if someone uses the word "literally" to your liking, so it's just not worth arguing over.


Thanks
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby jpers36 » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:25 pm UTC

tallest wrote:This use of literally has been around since the 18th century. It has been used by Twain , Joyce, Cooper, Dickens, Thoreau, etc. They are more capable writers than you. Suck it up. Slate


Now that's just silly. There are two concepts I'd like to introduce you to: the unreliable narrator and writing in the vernacular.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby MadH » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:28 pm UTC

goofy wrote:
MadH wrote:
goofy wrote:To all the people who say "it's a useful word and we have nothing to replace it with" - I'd be more inclined to believe you if I saw real evidence that the "non-figuratively" meaning was useful or necessary, or real evidence that the ambiguity in the word causes any confusion. But I haven't.


Well, every now and then in my life something ridiculous happens, and I relate it to someone. They think I'm joking, making something up, or otherwise using hyperbole to describe a situation. As soon as I see that confused look, I simply tell them, "No, literally. That literally happened to me." Sometimes, I simply say "Literally" while looking at them pointedly.


I should revise my statement. I know it's a useful word. And there's no confusion when it is used in its non-figurative sense, as you say. So where's the problem? Most words do have more than one meaning, after all.



Oh! Well, my situation is only useful when the people know me. Thankfully I do not relate life events to acquaintances often, but when I do they can't draw upon a slew of my past actions to decide what I'm actually trying to say when I use the word "literally", because I don't talk to these people often.

In those cases I have to do the pointed stare and "Literally. No. I mean it. Literally. YES. LITERALLY. YES." for them to understand I am not making shit up. Or I have to go into another explanation of what I just said. If other people had not undermined the word literally, I wouldn't have to do any of that.

It saves a tiny amount of time and a minor headache if we could just know if people meant "literally" literally (so really, as Randall is saying, it doesn't add up to hardly anything at all). The problem doesn't inherently stem from the fact that it is used in more than one way (as you say, other words do this as well, like "plane"), but that the other way it's used is the exact opposite of what it originally was trying to convey. A person can't necessarily derive through context the meaning of the word the way you can with many others, because now it's used to both intensify a falsehood AND clarify something as true when it can be confused with falsehood - two sides of the same coin rather than completely unrelated definitions. It'd be nice if we could just pick one or the other in this case.

Basically, I just want to talk to people and be understood the first time. That's all. It's not gonna change the world, but maybe I'd talk to people more often.

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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby goofy » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:31 pm UTC

jpers36 wrote:
tallest wrote:This use of literally has been around since the 18th century. It has been used by Twain , Joyce, Cooper, Dickens, Thoreau, etc. They are more capable writers than you. Suck it up. Slate


Now that's just silly. There are two concepts I'd like to introduce you to: the unreliable narrator and writing in the vernacular.


You can't just dismiss the evidence like that. You would have to look at all the instances to determine which if any are written in a vernacular, etc. You can find many examples here

MadH wrote:A person can't necessarily derive through context the meaning of the word the way you can with many others, because now it's used to both intensify a falsehood AND clarify something as true when it can be confused with falsehood - two sides of the same coin rather than completely unrelated definitions. It'd be nice if we could just pick one or the other in this case.


In all the years I've been talking about this, I think I've seen one real world example that is unclear. I'm not convinced there is any real problem.
Last edited by goofy on Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:34 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.

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BrianB
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Re: 1108: "Cautionary Ghost"

Postby BrianB » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:31 pm UTC

JimsMaher wrote:Not sure on the math here, but they appear to be offset by figuratively closer to 181 pixels.


You "literally" mis-understood. Take the middle two frames, overlay them on each other on different layers, and do a difference. They are exact same images with a slight sub-pixel shift to one side.

This would happen because the original artwork was larger, and the two frames were not aligned on pixel boundaries that are multiples of the inverse of the scaling factor. (ie. if image was reduced to 50%, then the absolute offset of the frames should be a multitude of 2 pixels. For 25%, offset should be a multiple of 4 pixels, etc).

The reduction process is not a simple decimation, but rather a re-sample. So you can have an effective offset that is less than a full pixel.


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