A study by the Department for Education published this week has revealed that ‘literally’ is literally the most commonly spoken word in Britain today.
The increasingly popular term pushed out last year’s winner – ‘the’ – into second place by literally a fraction, closely followed by year-on-year heavyweights ‘of’ and ‘to’.
“This literally marks a sea change in the British public’s speaking habits,” said Tina Mimmack, a spokeswoman for the department. “Up to this point, literally only punchy prepositions or the definite article ever walked away with the prize of Britain’s most spoken word, so to see a nine-letter adverb win the day is literally amazing.”
However, not everyone is happy with the term’s literally meteoric rise to the top. There are concerns in linguistic circles, for example, that the word is being misused on a daily basis by literally nearly all of the British population. There have already been calls to literally ban the word from everyday conversations, a stance that Peter Forbes, 78, chairman of the prestigious Queen’s English Society is keen to promote:
“Even if I have to literally run naked down Tetbury high street in order to raise awareness of this insidious word, I’ll do it,” he said. “When all is said and done, it is literally the most superfluous term you can use in the English lexicon. More often than not, it literally never adds value to a sentence and it makes you sound stupid because you are literally placing emphasis on a word that requires none. I literally won’t rest until the word is used only in its proper, literal sense.”
‘Literally’ began its rise to prominence in Britain during the latter part of 2004 when literally every Premiership footballer began to use the term in post-match television interviews. Most footballers literally have no formal education, but their words often carry great weight with fans up and down the country, and it wasn’t long before the term literally caught on like wildfire.
Gary Krzanowski, 34, of the London Anglo-Polish Association claims to be literally the first Manchester United fan to use the word in public:
“I was watching United literally destroy Arsenal in the infamous Pizzagate game at Old Trafford when someone started making derogatory comments about Teddy Sheringham, so I literally stood up in the middle of the pub, made a rude, rhythmic gesture with my right hand and shouted, ‘You are literally a w*nker!’ Literally nobody laughed, but it is a fond memory for me and I can still close my eyes and see the incident like it was literally yesterday.”