Literally, No Thanks

It would please me to eliminate the word literally from general usage. It will be easy.

Say what you mean in a literal way. Drop the redundant use of literally at the end of your statement. “Hundreds of people were there,” can stand alone. Use a specific number if you really want to be literal about it.

Go ahead, create a hyperbolic description to make your point. Don’t ruin it by adding “literally” when you mean it figuratively. Misuse of this word is one of the little things that drives me crazy. Not literally – I usually just get irritated, maybe rant a little.

But hearing this sentence is what finally pushed me over the edge when it comes to the use of “literally”. (Hyperbole alert – I was not standing on a cliff and no bones were broken.) “That literally exploded my brain and blew off the back of my head.” Really. But it was a medical miracle, because that person with brain and skull missing just kept talking and talking and talking… It literally seemed they would never stop.

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So…and that

A few years ago my adult children heard someone wrap up a sentence with the words “and that” and chuckled as one said to the other, “That reminds me of Aunt N”.

Puzzled, as Aunt N is my sister, I asked what they meant.  They were astonished I had never noticed her habit of wrapping up a sentence with the words “and that”.

Now I can’t help but notice and I smile thinking of my kids every time I hear her use those words to wrap up her thoughts.  I’m not sure what it means, other than that she is done with what she was saying.  I have not mentioned this to her.

Oblivious as I was to her “and thats” I am well aware of my own awkward and involuntary way of frequently ending a statement with “so…”.  Being aware of it hasn’t helped me break this verbal habit.  “So…” might mean I am leaving it to the hearer to draw their own conclusions about what I was just saying.  Or it may be my way of passing the conversational ball, as in  “I’m done.  What do you think?”.

Which led me to think about how often styles of conversation seem to run in families.

Many in my husband’s family need a conversational pause big enough to drive a truck through before they will comment in a conversation involving more than one other person.  My sister and I are more like cars darting from one lane to another on the interstate. One of us begins to talk as the others sentence is nearing an end, but not completed. Reverse and repeat for the length of the conversation.  (Yes, this is also known as interrupting…I try to control it …or at least feel bad when I don’t…) It works well enough for us and neither is offended.

I’ve  learned the nonverbal clues that mean my husband has something  to say, and I try to open the conversational gate wide for him at those times.  It became a nightly routine around the dinner table, the kids and I chattering away until their dad would reach in his shirt pocket and remove a fold of paper.  As the paper crinkled, we grew silent to listen as he shared something about his day, including the daily trivia question he had just pulled from his pocket to read to us.  That done, he was content for our chattering to resume.

Over the years his few words often carried more weight than my many words to the children – a good lesson for writing as well as conversation.  Our adult children are considered quiet by some, chatty by others.  They are a little of both.

My sister and I continue in our awkward sentence endings, perhaps because we are less comfortable in situations where no one is talking yet as we wrap up our thoughts.  I’m not too concerned about breaking that habit.  But I do try to curb my tendency to interrupt when I can see that it is annoying the speaker, so…………