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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 17, 2013/ 14 Teves, 5774

The Oxford English Dictionary's literal problem

By Meghan Daum



http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) Taking photos of ourselves is the signature act of our times. We know this not because the president snapped one with world leaders at Nelson Mandela's memorial service Tuesday, but because "selfie" is the Oxford English Dictionary's Word of the Year.

And as you may read more than once in the weeks since the Nov. 19 announcement, this is a sign of the apocalypse. Just about every blogger, columnist and style reporter has deemed selfie-mania a pernicious outgrowth of the era's unparalleled narcissism.

Naturally, there's been a backlash to the backlash. Others in the commentariat have rightly pointed out that our self-obsession, while certainly notable, is being driven more by technology than a visceral shift in our cultural psyche. People have always taken photos of themselves, either with camera timers or by handing their Nikons over to strangers in foreign countries and then paying large sums to get them back. The automated photo booth was an instant hit in the 1920s, but it's easy to imagine grouchy newspaper columnists observing the phenomenon and declaring the entire flapper generation a bunch of vain, naval-gazing brats.

This grouchy columnist is more concerned about a different ruling by the OED. It was actually issued a few years ago, though the media didn't notice until last spring, so I believe it has a rightful place on 2013's timeline of dubious developments.

I am talking about the OED's decision to expand "literally" so that it also means "figuratively." The entry defines the adverb "literally" as "in a literal manner or sense; exactly: the driver took it literally when asked to go straight over the roundabout. " But then it adds a note: "informal, used for emphasis while not being literally true: I have received literally thousands of letters."



The latter, say the editors, "is not acceptable in formal contexts, though it is widespread."

Not acceptable in formal contexts? Then the Democratic National Convention must be a pretty relaxed affair. That's where Vice President Joe Biden, in his 2012 address, famously used the "L-word" nine times, including in patently metaphorical statements like "literally, (killing Osama Bin Laden) was about healing an unbearable wound."

His affinity for the word caused some on Twitter to suggest that if you'd taken a drink every time he said it, you'd have passed out before he finished.

Then, in August, Sarah Palin was sufficiently worried about violence in Egypt and the president's vacation schedule to say "literally, all hell seems to be breaking loose and Obama is having a gay old time."

And though you'd think that British parliamentarians would be above such things, it turns out they are not immune. When British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg referred last year to "people literally in a different galaxy who are paying extraordinarily low rates of tax," he wasn't talking about the residents of Ursa Major.

Clegg, at least, managed to spark a debate, with the language police crying foul and others offering reminders that as far back as 1903, the OED was cautioning "literal" users to "stop, look, and think before using the word in any manner short of its exact sense."

Much of the magic of language, of course, lies in its fluidity. The OED has long been in the business of not only defining words but also tracing their evolution. And the fact that several dictionaries have followed the OED's lead suggests that being conservative on "literal" is being on the wrong side of history. But, I'm sorry: "Literal" does not mean the same thing as "not at all literal."

It is not a contranym, like "sanction," which means both to punish and to condone, or "garnish," which means both to add on and to take away. It's a plain old word with a plain old meaning. Misusing it is cheating. It's talking or (worse) writing without accountability. It essentially cues the listener to stop listening. It's the ultimate enabler of hyperbole.

The logic of "if you can't beat them, join them" works for some things — for instance, Republicans coming around on gay rights — but not so much when it comes to language. If we cave on "literally," it will only be a matter of time before we'll be granting equal rights to "irregardless."

And all the selfies in the world aren't as apocalyptic as that.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

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Meghan Daum is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.


© 2013,the Los Angeles Times

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