literally = "so to speak; metaphorically or hyperbolically" (1864)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Jul 5 22:44:13 UTC 2006

Thanks, Fred.  It's definitely time for an OED subsense.


Fred Shapiro <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Fred Shapiro
Subject: Re: literally = "so to speak; metaphorically or hyperbolically"

On Wed, 5 Jul 2006, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> OED actually has one from 1863, written by the English actress Fannie
> Kemble after she'd moved to Georgia. (OED merely notes "improperly
> used," but a separate subentry seems warranted.)

Here's earlier evidence:

Cooper, James Fenimore: The Last of the Mohicans, 1826
eyward perceived, in truth, that the younger Indian had thrown his form on
the side of the hillock while they were talking, like one who sought to
make the most of the time allotted to rest, and that his example had been
followed by David, whose voice literally "clove to his jaws", with the
fever of his wound, heightened, as it was, by their toilsome march.
Unwilling to prolong a useless discussion, the young man affected to
comply, by posting his back against the logs

Delegates to Congress: Letters of delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, Volume
10, June 1 1778-Septmeber 30 1778
clear in, from what I have seen, & known, since I have been in Congress,
that if we are to have no Confederation untill the Legislatures of the
thirteen States agree to one, that we shall never have one, & if we have
not one, we shall be literally a rope of sand, & I shall tremble for the
consequences that will follow, at the end of this War. France I have good
reason to think would never have entered into the Treaties, she has done
with us, had sh

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro Editor
Associate Librarian for Collections and YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS
Access and Lecturer in Legal Research Yale University Press,
Yale Law School forthcoming
e-mail: fred.shapiro at

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