Literally the Worst Definition of a Word Ever

Nicholas Clairmont in Big Think:

Shutterstock_113618773Ours is a cultural and linguistic moment obsessed with irony.

For just that reason, people need to stop using the word 'literally' to mean 'figuratively'. I am not the first to say this. Yet the point failed to sink in. Worse, prompted by the addition of the non-literal sense of 'literal' to several dictionaries, including the Oxford Enflish Dictionary Online, the usage is getting even more accepted.

The situation is also getting worse because the flames are being fanned by several reactionary articles which claim that the usage which means 'figuratively' is perfectly legitimate. They make this claim based on three lines of reasoning: That the usage is very old, that nobody actually gets confused by the two meanings, and that language evolves naturally and we must simply describe it and conform to it, rather than judge it or make prescriptions for it.

I will describe precisely why this usage is a bad thing for the language. But first, because all of the above arguments are faulty, I want to take the time to point out why:

Bad Reason 1: “Aha!” they point out. “The usage is not some horrible new invention of the millennials, it has been around for a very long time, in the dictionary since 1903, and first used in 1759!”

This point tends to be the primary data used to make the non-literal use of 'literally' look legitimate to detractors. Why the hell does this matter to anyone?

More here.