it’s one thing to police spelling and grammar; it’s a douchebag thing to do, especially if you’re using it as a means of refuting an argument (“you spelled that word wrong, therefore…
and yet, I cannot abide some things. the meaning of “literally” must not be allowed to become “figuratively.”
First, a nitpick. Nobody uses literally to mean figuratively. They aren’t throwing the word “literally” into the sentence “I was floored” so that you will understand they mean “not really, but the figurative connotation of floored.” They know you will understand that anyway.
No, they use literally figuratively as an intensifier, in the same sense that we use really or totally or definitely, and it works for all the same reasons those do.
Now I understand the thinking behind the embargo of literally used figuratively as a figurative bridge that literally cannot be crossed, but I can’t support it. Because words don’t work like that. They do not contain the properties of their meanings within themselves. By that I mean to say that the word fire is not hot to the touch. The word bright does not illuminate words around it or hurt to look at. Typing the word heavy on a page doesn’t increase its weight by more than the weight of its ink would do so.
And thus the word literally does not itself possess the property of literalness.
We can say “that really hurt” and it’s understood that we aren’t literally saying that what distinguishes this pain from other pain is that other pain was false. We can use seriously or truly or definitely or any other word that connotes truthfulness or precision and use it figuratively to mean an intensifier.
Literally just seems to be a logical continuation of that trend, and it has no downside because of the aforementioned wonderfully flexible ability of the human brain to parse different meanings for the same word.
Think of it this way: if someone says “I was literally floored.”, they want you to picture them doing a cartoon take of being knocked to the floor. That’s not what literally happened (notice how easily you parsed that I meant the literal definition of literal there), of course, but that’s the impression they wish to convey. Not that they were simply floored in the usual sense of the word, not just merely floored but really-quite-sincerely floored. The figurative use of literal is a concise way of conveying this.