Actually, nothing blew up. It wasn’t literal at all. But that phrase was over used and misused by most of the occupants of the vehicle. Until we arrived at my older daughter’s home in Seattle, at which point, she set her siblings straight on their improper use of the word literal.
As with many popular phrases, I have been able to block out my children’s misapplication of the word “literally.” For me, it joins other popular and misused slang words such as “like” as in; “I was like, and he was like and it was like…” and “you know”. My daughter finally stopped saying, “you know” when I continually responded with, “Actually, I do know.”
So the phrase literally has been abused in our household. It has literally been misused every day.
That is, until we arrived in Seattle. Older daughter number two began sharing a story of riding an elephant while on a mission trip in Thailand, “I was so scared, I literally had a heart attack.”
Older daughter number one, “I literally doubt you know how to correctly use that word.”
Number two, “No. I was literally scared to death.”
Number one, “No. You weren’t literally scared to death, because you are still alive. You literally do not know how to use that word correctly.”
And so it went on, the two of them literally arguing for the better part of a day, over the proper application of the word ‘literally.’
The teenaged daughters got in on the act, inadvertently, by using their everyday speech.
“This water is so cold, we could literally do the ice bucket challenge.”
“I literally almost drowned.”
They were corrected by their older sister at every turn, yet remained undaunted in their speech.
Curiosity finally got the better of me and I looked up the exact definition of literally. I literally Googled it.
One of the definitions says, “True to fact; not exaggerated; actual or factual.”
I think my kids have never been literal in their lives. Their speech is peppered with exaggeration, falsity and imagination. I could be grateful for their rich story telling capacity, but usually I find myself frustrated, not knowing whether they are telling me the truth, or exaggerating for the sake of the story.
I hate to admit it, but I have been called, by more than one of my very own children, gullible. That’s not to say I believe every story they conjure, but I do give people the benefit of the doubt, even when it is my own kids.
For many years, I naively believed that my own children would never lie to me. That is, until I caught a teenaged daughter in a bold-faced lie. I was shocked that she would ever lie, especially to me. That was eight kids ago, and although I like to believe I am no longer so naïve, my children literally prove me wrong. The master of story telling is my youngest daughter. She is the seventh of eight children. One might think that by now, I don’t believe a word that comes out of any of their mouths, but I still believe in the basic goodness of humanity. And kids are literally human.
But Lexi has a way with words. She can weave a tale, as cunning as an Indian snake charmer. More often than not, I find myself listening intently, reeled in by the story, until she laughs and says, “I was only kidding, mom.” Drat. Fooled again. The first time it happened, she was a mere kindergartner, with a story about riding horses and catching fish during recess. I looked at her, wide-eyed and amazed that the school would offer such a great thing as pony rides and fishing during recess. It’s the first time I remember hearing that lyrical laugh, followed by the words, “Mom, I was just kidding.”
Samantha has literally posted a sticky note over my writing chair, which says, “Gullible Zone.”
Talk about disrespectful. I think my kids literally laugh at me. I know I hear inexplicable laughter coming from them at odd moments, but I like to think they are laughing with me, not at me.
Needless to say, once we left Seattle and hit the road to Evanston, the word literally reappeared in the vernacular.
“Chik-fil-et literally has the best chicken in the world. Can we have lunch? I’m literally starving.”
I sighed, rolled my eyes to the heavens, and literally said a prayer of thanks that we were nearly home.
And no. I don’t believe any of my children literally starved.