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15 August 2008 @ 15:00
Lynn Johnston ≠ Dalton Camp  

Sherry Stern, writing in the Los Angeles Times, and reprinted in my morning paper, tells us:

The creator of the popular comic strip For Better or for Worse has had a change of heart — literally and figuratively — and won't be retiring after all.

As it turns out, "literally and figuratively" seems to mean something more like "in two slightly different figurative senses"; Johnston's decision not to retire was prompted by a change in her personal life, not by a heart transplant. Now, I have, in a previous post, sketched a possible defence for the use of the word literally as a mere intensifier (not that I would ever use it that way myself, mind you). However, I don't think you can get away with using this bleached sense of literally if you are also conjoining (and contrasting) it with figuratively.

In any case, I don't think the intensifying meaning of literally was what Stern had in mind. The idea seems to be that Johnston had a change of heart (in the ordinary idiomatic sense of the phrase) about retiring after undergoing a change in a matter of the heart (in another conventional figurative sense of heart), namely the end of her marriage. But it's not at all obvious to me which one Stern thought of as literal.

love, play & inquirytrochee on 15. August, 2008 19:08 (UTC)
I agree that the only way that "literally and figuratively" could have been used there was involving a heart transplant.

I even already knew the story about Lynn J. and her divorce and on-again-off-again retirement, and I still thought "oh, i didn't know she was having cardiac surgery. Man have times been hard for her!"
harkalark: Oharkalark on 15. August, 2008 20:09 (UTC)
I hate it when people misuse that word. The example I always give is of a news story I heard a few years ago where the reporter was talking about how voters might get disillusioned with both candidates running smear campaigns "where they are literally dropping boulders on each other!" I mean, if they were, now that would be news.
love, play & inquirytrochee on 15. August, 2008 20:31 (UTC)
that would be awesome. Cagefight for city council seats! can't be dirtier than the current system
Tishiewahooweena on 16. August, 2008 01:11 (UTC)
Ha! I know that's a peeve of many folks (and it gets under my skin too), but as you may know, mine is the misuse and over-use of "random." My GOD, that LITERALLY makes me want to strangle someone. But I don't, because I'm afraid of prison. LITERALLY.
(Anonym) on 28. April, 2012 18:32 (UTC)
Zillion kudos to this thread, I must admit
Million kudos to the Author! A Fantastic post!