A proverbial random thought that has bothered me, literally, forever

There is no hope for hopefully

I heard a caller to a radio show yesterday talk about meeting his wife. He referred to himself as “The proverbial bad boy.” How does that proverb go again? Something about a bad boy in good fortune being in want of a wife?

It reminded me of another oft-misused word, literally. Unlike “proverbial” or “random,” but rather like “hopefully,” there is a “literally” entry in a book called 100 Words Almost Everyone Confuses and Misuses.

Literally: 1. In a literal manner; word for word. 2. In a literal or strict sense. 3. Usage problem: Really, actually. Used as an intensive before a figurative expression: He was laughing so hard his sides literally burst.

What’s wrong here is that literally is being used to mean the exact opposite of what it should. His sides didn’t literally burst. It also bugs me when people use literally when there is no figurative expression involved. We literally went to, like, five bars last night.

The word use that bothers me the most, for some reason, is random. Since my era, teenagers have been declaring awkward or unusual social moments to be “Ran-dom.” It’s gotten more pervasive. Look at your Facebook photo albums right now. Do you have one called “Random photos”? Did Facebook select those photos for you? Did you take a bunch of pictures without looking? Didn’t think so. You are an offender.

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