Synonyms of literally in English:
The Oxford English Dictionary defines literally in part as “without metaphor, exaggeration, distortion, or allusion,” though it’s misused precisely this way all the time. At the visa office of the Italian consulate in New York, where I spent many idle hours in 2011 waiting for my name to be called, some hopeful official, possibly attempting to divert the homicidal rage induced in those suffering bureaucratic breakdown away from the staff and toward something more constructive, had set out a notebook for suggestions and comments. Here’s my favorite, dated February 19, 2009: “Staff is very rude when questioning. I thought I was at Guantanamo, Cuba. I was asked to pay before being returned my passport when I decided to stop the application process. I was literally robbed and there was nothing I could do. Hope to never visit you and give you more of my money.” The author was most likely not literally robbed by Italian diplomats. Nor is the well-pleasured protagonist of a romance novel accurate when she says, “And then I literally exploded.” Misused properly, literally is pretty unbeatable for comic effect.Joshua Ferris
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