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Letters: Of language, and the galaxy

Re “OED’s literal problem,” Opinion, Dec. 12

In her delightful column, Meghan Daum bemoans the acknowledgment by the Oxford English Dictionary of the common misuse of “literally,” opining that its misuse is not only cheating but “cues the listener to stop listening.”

Ironically, this happened to me in reading her article when she equated people living in a different galaxy with residents of Ursa Major. Since Ursa Major is not even close to being a galaxy (it’s in our own Milky Way), Daum’s mistake caused my indignation against our culture’s ignorance of science, or even just common knowledge, to short-circuit my attention to the rest of her article.

Daum is justifiably worried about the consequences of sloppily using language, and so am I. I did collect myself and finish the article, but I couldn’t help but shake my head at the lack of scope many of us have in our thinking.

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Randy Patton

Rolling Hills Estates

Bravo to Daum for lampooning the OED’s decision to expand “literally” so that it also means “figuratively.”

Stemming the relentless dumbing-down of English has proved ever more difficult, even without prominent personalities such as Joe Biden and George W. Bush infamously butchering arguably the world’s most common language.

Whether the noble efforts of Daum and others protective of linguistic integrity ever bear fruit appears doubtful. After all, decades of striving to eradicate the improper variant of “I couldn’t care less” proved pointless.

Hence, I literally could care less.

Christine Hagel

Orcutt, Calif.

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