02/23/2015 04:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

If the Classics Used 'Literally'


For years we've been bombarded with the word "literally." For a while, I thought it would run its course but it's only been picking up speed, flying like literal shrapnel. I long ago gave up thinking that NPR reporters and hosts would avoid it. Even Terry Gross has peppered her questions with it. Brook Gladstone has uttered it and I'm sure Ira Glass has stepped into the literal war zone.

I dislike it because it's become a language filler with no meaning and no redeeming qualities.

So I began wondering what literature would be like if some of our greatest writers and poets used it the way we do today. Here are some examples:

"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Literally creeps in its petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time
And all our yesterdays have literally lighted fools the way to dusty death." - Macbeth

"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary
Over a many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, literally rapping at my chamber door." - The Raven

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
Literally miles to go before I sleep." - Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

"All right then, I'll literally go to hell - and tore it up." - Huckleberry Finn

"No man is an island entire of itself; every man is literally a piece of the continent." - No Man is An Island

"And the earth literally moved." - For Whom the Bell Tolls

"Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls
It literally tolls for thee." - For Whom the Bell Tolls

"So we literally beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." - The Great Gatsby

"The moving hand writes, And having writ literally moves on..." - Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

"A rose by any other name would literally smell as sweet." - Romeo and Juliet

"Rose is a rose is a rose is literally a rose." - Sacred Emily

"Lolita, light of my life, literally fire of my loins." - Lolita

"Mother literally died today." - The Stranger

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were literally striking thirteen." - 1984

"It was literally the best of times, it was the worst of times." - A Tale of Two Cities

"I am literally an invisible man." - Invisible Man

"He was an old man who fished along in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone literally eighty-four days now without taking a fish." - The Old Man and the Sea

"A mind needs books as a sword literally needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge." - A Game of Thrones

"I solemnly swear that I am literally up to no good." - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

"I'm quite illiterate, but I literally read a lot." - The Catcher in the Rye

"You just literally hold your head high and keep those fists down." - To Kill a Mockingbird

"Go and literally sin no more." - Jesus

Join the fun and visit my "Stamp Out Literally" Facebook page where we can figuratively slap the crap out of the L word.

Add favorite author/poet/movie passages that would suffer with the addition of the L word and times when writers and interview subjects have lowered our IQ with its use.
It's a venting thing.