Posted by: David | December 15, 2008

I feel really badly. I am literally pulling my hair out.

Both of those sentences are examples of bad English.  Whenever I hear someone say “I feel badly” or “I was literally jumping up and down” (when he wasn’t), I cringe. Yes, I know that I’m a nerd for even caring, but I can’t help it. That’s just the way I am. So, for the sake of my sanity, let’s go over this together.

Do you feel goodly? Coldly? Nicely? Grumpily? No? Then you don’t feel badly. You feel bad.  If you feel badly, it means that you are having trouble with your sense of touch, as in “I cannot read braille today because I am feeling badly. My fingertips were burned on my George Foreman grill.” The word “feel” is a linking verb like “am,” “smell,” or “taste.” So, for instance, you do not say things like “This tastes badly.” You say, “This tastes bad.” The same thing applies to “feel.”

Now let’s turn to the word “literal.” Webster defines it as “based on the actual words in their ordinary meaning; not figurative.” Was it literally a million degrees yesterday? No, unless you were inside the sun. Are you literally freezing this morning? If you are, I want to see some ice hanging from your nose. When people misuse the word “literal,” they are really just trying to add emphasis to what they are saying. That’s fine, but let’s not kill the word “literal.” Otherwise, you might kill me, speaking figuratively, of course.

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Responses

  1. do you feel better now? have you gotten it off your chest? Because I am literally feeling badly about this whole thing. 😉

  2. Thanks for the sympathy, love. It may make you feel better to know that there was one philologist I read about who agreed with you on the whole feeling badly thing.

  3. Oh, this is great, David! How about the common misuse of “I” as the object of a preposition? That one just kills me. 🙂

  4. Anonymous,

    Between you and I, I think that’s the worst.

  5. Hi David,

    I could care less.

    You get it? That’s another one of those right? it’s supposed to be “I couldn’t care less.” Haha!

    I’m a bit of an English nerd as well. Although I’m afraid that I may end up with several errors just commenting on it….

    Looking forward to seeing you guys for Christmas!

    Charlie

  6. David,
    bad grammar bothers me too. there’s a blog about bad gramar:
    http://www.patrickkphillips.com/category/grammar/

  7. Thanks, Meg! I’ll check it out.

  8. I just checked out the blog. Fascinating.


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