Browser plug-in figuratively kills the word 'literally'

It's the best plug-in ever created, and that's no hyperbole. OK, maybe a little.

Credit: Mike Walker/Literally

Does rampant use of the word "literally" literally make you want to scream? Then this new browser plug-in will figuratively make your heart sing.

The free plug-in, appropriately titled Literally, replaces the word "literally" with "figuratively" in online text. "That's literally all it does," the description reads.

Created by New York programmer Mike Walker, the plug-in can be downloaded for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Just pull up a Web page and watch instances of "literally" disappear. (The tool does not work on tweets or illustrations.)

The website and download pages for the plug-in bear an image of actor Rob Lowe, whose "Parks and Recreation" character Chris Traeger uses the word "literally" quite, well, liberally. The distinct way he says it has even earned video montages.

Though the amusing plug-in may soothe the frayed neurons of grammatical purists, dictionaries have in the last couple of years allowed for a second, less formal definition of the word literally. As Oxford's entry now reads: "Used for emphasis or to express strong feeling while not being literally true: I have received literally thousands of letters."

So, for example, it would be acceptable for me to say that I'm literally crying tears of joy over this plug-in even though I'm not, but because the colloquial use figuratively gives me hives, I won't.

When using Literally, you'll want to note, as Slate writer Will Oremus points out, that the widget doesn't discriminate in its attacks. "So if you install it, you'll also start seeing the word 'figuratively' [used] to describe things that are literally true, as in, 'White Sox Rookie Abreu Figuratively Destroys a Baseball. (The baseball was in fact destroyed.)"

OK, that literally made my brain hurt.

About the author

Leslie Katz, Crave's senior editor, heads up a team that covers the most crushworthy (and wackiest) tech, science, and culture around. As a co-host of the now-retired CNET News Daily Podcast, she was sometimes known to channel Terry Gross and still uses her trained "podcast voice" to bully the speech recognition software on automated customer service lines. E-mail Leslie.


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