Friday, July 10, 2009

Literally

I have a good friend in California. She works for Sun Microsystems and writes a blog on the subject of writing. Recently, she discovered that "factoid" meant something different from what she (and probably you) thought it does.

I must confess I'm a bit of a pedant. Leaving aside why this is (it's all about me, right?), the result is that I listen very carefully to what people say and wonder if it is true. Yesterday I was driving to a customer and listening to the BBC's programme In Our Time (this link will expire in mid-July), which is normally very interesting. The guest on the show was talking about the proliferation of life just before the Cambrian period. (If you are not familiar with the Cambrian period, look it up on Wikipedia. Suffice to say, the Cambrian period was quite a bit before Julius Caesar invaded Britain).

During this period in the Earth's history, there were life forms called Ediacara Biota which, in the absence of much competition, flourished. According to the presenter "the world was, literally, their oyster."

Really?

The world was an oyster? Literally?

My word. How we have come along.

So my request for the day - even the month - is this: please can we use "literally" only when we mean it?

2 comments:

Cathryn said...

You are so right, literally.

Sean Haffey said...

Thank you. By British standards, anyway