This is literally the last post I will write. Until the next one. Literally.
For years, I have joked about the broadcast news definition of “literally.” When you hear that word, what the reporter or anchor is really communicating is:
“Hello, we thank you for listening and paying attention, but for the benefit of all our other audience members who might not take the time to key in on important details, we’d like to offer the following reminder: before the last sentence or so disappears forever out the sieve of your short-term memory, please reflect upon the care and craft of said sentence construction. You may have noticed a subtle inflection that appeared out of place, and here is the explanation.
You see, language is a difficult proposition. Words that appear to have one inherent meaning might also carry a completely different thought or essence once placed in a parallel context. Upon those occasions where the aforementioned word might fulfill the necessary requirements for meaning upon different planes of context, we reserve the right to note that occurrence. While some of these double-meanings are strictly accidental, or the result of some regional differences in casual language, others are given a “Freudian” implication, as though there were subconscious desire attempting to surface from suppression.
Because we are broadcasters, our time is very precious, and we would hate for you to spend the energy to ponder whether our use of a double-entendre was indicative of happenstance or an actual sublimated thought. To prevent misunderstandings such as this in the future, we have instituted the following convention: immediately after any such clever turn of phrase, no matter how simple or non-clever, we will point out that it was in fact deliberate by waiting for a semi-humorous pause, then boldly adding ‘LITERALLY!’ It should be noted that all words in the teleprompter are capitalized, and the proper punctuation involves a leading ellipsis… LITERALLY!
If the resulting realization of our attempt at cleverness results in your greater appreciation for our skills as communications professionals, then consider yourself an insider to our great fraternity of brevity and charm. If, however, you view the occasion as nothing more than a trite pun – well, then an intern wrote it. LITERALLY.”
As far as I know, no one is cataloging the vast litany of ‘literal sins’ that are certainly hiding on YouTube or Google Video, but for those of you looking for more mainstream abuses of the word, Ariel says this is the most brilliant weblog she’s seen today.
[tags]Ike Pigott, Occam’s RazR, language, broadcast news, television news, Ariel Waldman, communication[/tags]