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Countdown to the Apocalypse

The worst part about this isn’t the second definition. (It was already a problem in 1926, when H. W. Fowler noted that “such false coin makes honest traffic in words impossible.”) No, it’s the “usage discussion” that follows, in which we’re told that “some people take sense 2 to be the opposite of sense 1.” Gee, imagine that.

On a related note, I’m currently reading a book of a certain philosophical bent that makes the rather obvious point that only by agreeing on terms at the outset can anyone have a thoughtful discussion on anything. In other words, for me to defend the proposition that Miley Cyrus is a no-talent, attention-seeking hack, you and I must first come to an agreement on the definition of “hack.”

Altering the meaning of “literally” to include “not actually” is therefore far more insidious than simply caving to the mouth-breathers who can’t be bothered to learn what words actually mean. It’s a linguistic sleight-of-hand that prevents useful dialogue.



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