Literally and Figuratively

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sat Apr 16 17:45:12 UTC 2005

>So what, then, for this person is the difference between "literally" and
>"figuratively"? The use in this contrasting way indicates that the author
>believe that the two terms mean something different. So what is it?

Just maybe: since "literally" has come to be used for "figuratively" or for
"almost-literally", maybe "literally and figuratively" can be taken as
"almost-literally and farther-from-literally" or "figuratively and

If Joe is a tenured professor who intends to devote his entire career to
USND, he might be called "literally married" to USND according to
post-literate standards (i.e., "figuratively married" in the tired English
of the past). Then how would one express (in addition) the idea that Joe
loves USND and is strongly attached to the place psychologically so that
even if he retired or lost his tenure he would make every effort to stay?
In this case he would be "literally and figuratively married" to his

Just maybe.

>On the other hand, if this is just a formula, in which the author is
>mindlessly repeating a phrase that she has heard without really assigning
>meaning to
>except 'intensifier', can we really say that, for her, "literally" has
>"changed" meaning at all (except that it means little more than

I think this possibility is likely too.

>In a message dated 4/15/05 3:53:44 PM, laurence.horn at YALE.EDU writes:
> > >Here is what I thought to be a nice citation demonstrating how clearly the
> > >meaning of "literally" has changed.
> > >
> > >Benjamin Barrett
> > >Baking the World a Better Place
> > >
> > >
> > >-----Original Message-----
> > >
> >
> > >DTL [...]
> > >--> "She really had been, literally and figuratively, married to San
> > >Francisco for the last 15 years," Singer said.
> >
> > So while she'll be leaving office, she literally and figuratively
> > left her heart in San Francisco.  Ouch.

-- Doug Wilson

More information about the Ads-l mailing list