Media Bistro is making news out of old news: the misuse of the word "literally." (For the best comments about the misuse of "literally," head over to the Reddit thread Media Bistro sourced their article from.) As much as the grammar Nazis don't want to admit it, the second definition of "literally" has superceeded the true definition in every day language.
From the Oxford Dictionary:
literallySyllabification: (lit·er·al·ly)Pronunciation: /ˈlitərəlē, ˈlitrə-/
In its standard use, literally means ‘in a literal sense, as opposed to a nonliteral or exaggerated sense’: I told him I never wanted to see him again, but I didn’t expect him to take it literally. In recent years, an extended use of literally (and also literal) has become very common, where literally (or literal) is used deliberately in nonliteral contexts, for added effect: they bought the car and literally ran it into the ground. This use can lead to unintentional humorous effects (we were literally killing ourselves laughing) and is not acceptable in formal English.
I am an offender of using "literally" for emphasis. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever used it in the correct way. Which is why I try to avoid using it at all, in speaking because I use it incorrectly, and in writing because it is an adverb. Though I don't judge people that use "literally" in conversation, nor would I ever care enough about its use to correct anyone, it literally stands out in conversation.
What also stands out in conversation and is a particular irritation of mine, even though I have said it in the past - we have all said this - is the use of "they" as an all encompassing, all knowledgeable being. "They" is brilliant. "They" are always saying this, that or the other. "They" are always right and "they" usually share our views. "They" is what people say when they want to spout their own, probably unsupported, opinion about a particular subject, but don't want to be blamed for the content.
Neither of those two bug me as much as the phrase that is suddenly everywhere. "It is what it is." Usually, this deep thought is delivered with a long suffering sigh or a whaddya gonna do? shrug. It just might be the laziest phrase in the English language. What is it? Tell us! If you can't explain what it is to us, then you probably shouldn't be talking about it.
I have a few other conversation pet peeves - "Back in the day..." always makes me laugh and feel sorry for the poor soul that is reduced to reliving their glory days instead of enjoying their life now. And, I'm starting to get irritated by all of the war imagery and phrases in sports. Every time a sportscaster or player compares a game to the life or death reality of war, it pisses me off.
What about you? Have any conversational irritations? Sound off in the comments.