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Abused Word of the Day: Literally

January 29, 2018

When Merriam-Webster gave “literally” two seemingly opposite definitions, its writers noted that some readers were not happy about it. The definitions:

1) in a literal sense or manner: actually
2) in effect: virtually

This led readers to leave comments such as, “This is literally the stupidest thing I've ever read. 

Most often, the first definition is the desired one. And, most often, the word is literally unnecessary. It’s typically used for emphasis, as in, “I’m literally down to my last dollar.” In this case, as in most others, the sentence is stronger without it: “I’m down to my last dollar.”

You can extract the word from your vocabulary and never notice that it’s missing. But you may find that it is occasionally handy. 

Last week, I had to explain to a friend that he literally couldn’t buy a house on the water.

 

Cliché of the Day: Blue-Sky Thinking

January 22, 2018

It’s ironic that “blue-sky thinking” is a synonym for “brainstorming.” Whether you’re a fan of brainstormy weather or, like Irving Berlin, envision “nothing but blue skies from now on,” you should know that “blue-sky thinking” made the list of most hated jargon terms in a survey by Glassdoor.

I suppose “blue sky” means thinking unobscured by clouds, birds, airplanes, hot air balloons, satellites, nuclear missiles or other miscellany that blot out the sun. So if your mind is as blank as the sky is blue, you’re ready for some blue-sky thoughts. In other words, the term should be used only by managers who want their employees to stop thinking.

Cliché of the Day: Hit the Ground Running

January 19, 2017

If you “hit the ground” while you’re running, you’ve either tripped or passed out from exhaustion. But, in the business context, “running” is the key word here. Those who hit the ground walking or jogging need to get “up to speed” and learn to “run with it.” If someone coming toward you is hitting the ground running, you may want to “hit the deck.”

Marketing People Talk Funny

February 1, 2013

Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what marketing people mean when they talk.  Marketing is not as challenging as, say, being an engineer or a file clerk, so some in the business try to make it sound challenging by using the words they think their clients want to hear.

Like lawyers, if people understood what we were talking about, they wouldn’t pay us as much as they do (we have a ways to go to catch up to lawyers, of course).