April 23, 2014
Chrome browser extension Literally rescues grammar police
by Sadie Mason-Smith
Good news, everyone! You no longer have to worry about some ignorant internet user ruining your day by misusing “literally.” Developer Mike Walker has come to the rescue of those who hate hyperbole.
Slate’s Will Oremus reports that Walker has saved the decline of the English language for “cranky language bull[ies]” everywhere with the Google Chrome extension Literally. As the description reads, this app “replaces the word ‘literally’ with ‘figuratively’. That’s literally all it does.” Once installed, Literally takes text posts featuring the prescriptive linguist’s bane and swaps out every instance of the word “literally” for the often times more historically accurate “figuratively.” The more than 200 users who already have the extension installed don’t even know what I’m talking about—according to their screens, I’ve dropped the term figuratively 10 times so far in a very confusing article about an app that replaces words with the exact same word. Unfortunately for those who are hiding from the inherent fluidity of discourse, the app doesn’t work on tweets or images, but the majority of the offensively misused adverb’s appearances will be swept under the figurative carpet.
Let’s get real for a moment—we can handle the evolution of English. Its malleability is a side effect of a free discourse. Latin doesn’t have to worry about words changing meaning over time, because it’s dead. France does worry constantly about the purity of French, to the point of actually having (literal) language police, but honestly, who has the time for all that sexiness and disdain? The point of a language is to communicate clearly, and “literally” has clearly changed meaning, as even Oremus has to admit:
“We pedants are waging a losing battle, of course. Even major dictionaries now recognize the use of “literally” as an intensifier for statements that are not literally true.”
I have some suggestions for further browser extensions based on inaccurate uses of common words: Unique, replacing the word “unique” when used with a modifier to “special,” Awesome, which replaces “awesome” with “I guess that’s okay,” and LOL, which replaces “LOL” with “I snorted slightly in amusement,” “ROFL” with “I’m almost grinning,” and “LMAO!!!” with “I made a sarcastic ‘haaaaaaaaaaa’ sound.”
Sadie Mason-Smith is a former Melville House intern.