Literally…?

Okay, so it was a Thing recently about how the word “literally” has shifted its meaning because so many people used it improperly, and a big controversy over if this is the worst thing in the history of language or if those of us who use and depend on words to Mean Things should chill out because this happens and it’s normal.

(In case you’re one of the three people who missed this, a good explanation is here, in which she says,

Now as well as meaning “in a literal manner or sense; exactly: ‘the driver took it literally when asked to go straight over the traffic circle'”, various dictionaries have added its other more recent usage. As Google puts it, “literally” can be used “to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling”.)

Some people feel this is not only completely normal but, indeed, justified. They think that dictionaries should define how we use a word, not give us an objective resource on what a word means.

Some people claim that since this is not the first word to change its meaning (see: semantic drift), that this is perfectly fine.

Pick a word. Any word. Now look up its etymological history. Chances are, it used to mean something quite different. Language changes, at times quite fast.

You are literally on the wrong side of history if you try to fight this. —Literally Indefensible

Hey, guys, remember the word, “livid“? How it was a great word to describe someone’s appearance while conveying emotion? …until it meant both greyish white as well as red with rage. Oh, and also blue, or purple. Or bruised.

Yeah, there’s a reason no one uses it anymore. And it’s much like what Martha Gill says about “literally”:

So there really is not much we can do with the word “literally”, other than avoid it completely. At the moment it is irredeemable.

We have a hard enough time communicating with other human beings even when we use the same language. Please, don’t make it harder. Just because you can use a word wrong doesn’t mean you should.

Let’s Be Spontaneous…Tomorrow

I’m a fan of spontaneity.

You wouldn’t know this to look at me; I keep a fairly regulated lifestyle and don’t add a lot of extra activities to my routine.

My version of being spontaneous is more like, “I have an afternoon free! I can do anything I want! …but I think I want to do some laundry so I have clothes tomorrow, and since I’m here doing laundry I may as well cook for the next few days. I guess I can watch a movie while I’m at it,” and there goes an afternoon that most spontaneous people would probably spend running off to pick up a game of laser tag or find a circus.

So the whole “I’m in a Christmas play!” thing that just happened made me take a good hard look at my routine (and my laundry). I’m seriously going to have to structure things for the next three months. Like, for reals, you guys.

Right now I’m Christmas shopping, planning Thanksgiving, thinking about Halloween costumes, deciding yes or no on NaNoWriMo, and trying to get all of my outstanding tasks (and housecleaning) done before the end of the month.

It’s all very intense.

I have discovered, however, that I’m still me and have not magically acquired the ability to subsist on less than five hours of sleep. (Who knew?)

So because things will be more structured in my life, expect a little less structure here for the next few months. Because, you know, I’ve got to be spontaneous somewhere.

I (Don’t Want To) Listen

listening-ear
(From PublicDomainPictures.net)

I love the synchronicity of the internet.

Lately I’ve been following a lot of conversations, some about strong women characters, some about the “real” definition of Fangirl, some about gender roles in faith communities, and some about the voices of minorities in all communities.

It’s been the conversations about voice that have been the most important to me. They seem to transcend their own corner to apply to just about everything.

Lack of female superheroes in media? Let’s listen to what “fangirls” are saying before labeling it an unprofitable market.

Lack of women in faith conversations? Um, have you met the internet? Maybe get with some of the women leaders who exist (trust me, they’re totally there) and ask them how to broaden the conversation.

Lack of minority writers in SFF? Yeah, they’re there, they’re just not getting coverage. Seek them out and acknowledge their voices.

Lack of minority characters in SFF? It’s a problem, especially to get ones that aren’t stereotypes intended to fill a certain, pre-conceptualized role. Listen to the problem before trying to fix it and going about it all wrong.

So, voice. Listening. Affirming. Acknowledging that (almost) everyone has a valid viewpoint, and those who don’t still feel as if they do. Everyone’s emotional position feels legitimate, and sometimes what we need most is not to be right or wrong but to feel heard in that.

It’s been a very big thing with me lately, leading to passionate discussions about feminism and transgender issues.

But my own inability to listen was right under my nose.

One of the problems of being unashamedly open-minded is that when one has a bit of closed-mindedness it is hard to spot. Like a rusty mechanism, my radar didn’t turn on myself until I read this in a post this morning:

What if we responded like that more often? I think that would be beautiful, don’t you?

When someone tells us that we hurt them. I’m listening.

When someone is crying out. I’m listening.

When someone disagrees with us. I’m listening.

I’m in the middle of a disagreement with someone close to me, someone whose opinion on a situation seems totally unfounded. It feels like it’s unnecessary, that it’s inconvenient, that it’s a violent reaction to a small instigation. It’s right in front of me all the time, though, so I can’t just step past it and move on. I don’t want it to be there, and I’m impatient that it remains.

Part of me equates “listening” with “changing to make another person happier”. I need to find that middle ground between whole-hearted acceptance and whole-hearted resistance.

I’m trying to remind myself that it’s not about being right or being wrong. Other people do not need my permission to have “correct” emotions.

And maybe if I actually listened, with no other agenda or intent to convince, it would accomplish all it needed to.