Literally, 'literally' is in another galaxy

Nick Clegg used the word ‘literally’ in a figurative sense to describe high earners in a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph: ‘You see people literally in a different galaxy who are paying extraordinary low rates of tax.’

This morning there was a discussion on Radio 4’s Today programme about how the meaning of the word has eroded over time (and how there isn’t really any other word that can replace it). If you don’t get a chance to listen here are some examples to amuse you.

  1. DJ Fearne Cotton saying an album was ‘literally flying off the shelves’.
     
  2. A weather presenter predicting that there would be ‘literally just a spot or two of rain’.
     
  3. Wayne Rooney being described as being ‘literally on fire’ or ‘literally playing out of his skin’ by sports commentators.
     
  4. Andy Townsend reporting that ‘Terry Venables has literally had his legs cut off’.
     
  5. A BBC newsreader (in another sporting context): ‘You are up against Norwegians who are literally born on skis.’
     
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