Wednesday, June 17, 2009

literally


Dear Life, by Carol Aust

I am something of a literalist. And a semantiphile. OK, I made that one up, but if it was a real word it would mean "one who loves meaning, specifically with respect to linguistic meaning, to the point of obsession." This makes me a rather annoying person to have a conversation with (God bless my friends and family), because I can get very nit-picky about word choice and word meaning. Nothing bugs me more than when people use words in the wrong context, or say one thing when they really mean something completely different.

The one that got me all worked up this week was people who ask for others to "send good thoughts" their way when they are having medical tests, or trying to sell a house, or taking the SATs or whatever. I don't have a problem with the sentiment behind it, which I interpret to be, at its base, a request for care. The person is simply asking for others to care for them and for what is happening in their life. I'm all for that -- we need the care and support of others, especially in difficult times. What gets my knickers all in a knot is the semantics: You don't actually want people to send you positive thoughts. In fact, most logical people don't even believe that it is possible to literally send thoughts to someone. Seriously folks, let's just say what we mean!

If you want prayer, ask.
If you want someone to call you after it's over to see how it went, ask.
If you want a pep talk, or a back rub, or someone to pick up your kids at preschool so you can get a iced coffee and have a moment of peace... ask.

Why are we so afraid to ask for what we need? Here's a good song reminding us that we don't need to be. (Lyrics here.)

[OK, one more pet peeve while we're on the subject of semantics: people who use the word "literally" to mean the exact opposite, as in "I could literally eat a whole cow right now." No. No you could not literally do that. Figuratively speaking (figuratively being the opposite of literally, mind you), you could eat a cow. Not literally. Grrr. By the way, I totally do this and Jon catches me. We are so made for each other.]

6 comments:

Kelsie Hernandez said...

GREAT blog post! Literally.

Deborah said...

I think we don't ask because we know that people don't like being put on the spot and they end up feeling guilty for saying "no", so then feel obliged to say "yes" because they were asked directly, and nobody wants to be the one who has become a burden to everybody else for asking a favor, because that is what it feels like to ask for things, especially when you feel you have nothing to offer in return. And of course, lots of people really ARE gracious about that, but not everybody is, so you never know who you can ask and who you can't. But we also happen to live in a world now full of people who are commitment-phobes. That's why I prefer to just volunteer to people rather than wait for them to ask because I know they probably won't because I know most feel the same as me. If that makes any sense.

Ooh, TOTALLY agree on the misuse of "literal" too . . . I'm going to start misusing "figurative" just for fun.

the bells said...

I'm sending you good thoughts on your tooth extraction recovery ;)

Rachel Ann said...

I totally hate when people do this too, however I think that some people who don't believe in God are still superstitious (though they wouldn't put it that way) and think that by you "thinking good thoughts" it will, in some karmic way, be helpful.

But I just want to be like, "Look, God is real, good thoughts don't do squat, and you should pray instead."

Sabrina said...

I know what you mean about noticing errors...Collin intentionally sends me misspelled messages and uses words incorrectly to grind my nerves. "Your my favorite person, irregardless of how special other people are." ACK!
Another one: "I could care less." ARRRRRGH!

Deborah said...

That's evil! :-o Hahaha