(I Beg You Not to Speak, Write or Use)
Hand me a muzzle. I cannot bear to hear one more tart and snarky Really?
Used as a barb to show displeasure, this one word response requires no articulation, and no carefully considered critical thinking. Really? — delivered with an annoying inflection, and followed by Seriously? — is just plain lazy. And overused. At one time, say three years ago, this succinct response was clever and a little bit cute. Now really is yesterday's amazing.
Actually is an unnecessary word, a filler that quickly bloats and bothers. Diane Lockward at Blogalicious offers this well-put rant: "I want to place a restraining order on the word actually. Forever, not temporarily. The word has used up its lifetime quota. Overused and misused, it's become a sort of verbal punctuation mark or a space holder. Well, actually. How many sentences now begin that way? Actually, a lot. How many responses begin that way?"
Like so many good words, literally has been abused.
In its standard use, literally means "in a literal sense, as opposed to a nonliteral or exaggerated sense." In recent years, according to my trusty dictionary, an extended use of literally has become very common, where literally is used deliberately in nonliteral contexts, for added effect: they bought the car and literally ran it into the ground. This use can lead to unintentional humorous effects: we were literally killing ourselves laughing and is not acceptable in formal English.
Kelli Russell Agodon sees the lighter side of literally: "I confess I love it when people misuse the word literally. I literally yelled my head off. Really, that must have been very painful for you and how weird you're still alive. I literally died laughing. Really. So you're a zombie now. I know some people get really annoyed with the misuse, but in my head, I love it. I literally see all the things these people literally did."
Bless her heart, I'm not there yet.
I may be cranky but I don't think I'm alone: What's got you bothered?