A study by the Department for Education published this week has revealed that ‘literally’ is literally the most commonly spoken word in Britain today.
The increasingly popular term pushed out last year’s winner – ‘the’ – into second place by literally a fraction, closely followed by year-on-year heavyweights ‘of’ and ‘to’.
‘This literally marks a sea change in the British public’s speaking habits,’ said Tina Mimmack, a spokeswoman for the department. ‘Up to this point, literally only punchy prepositions or the definite article ever walked away with the prize of Britain’s most spoken word, so to see a nine-letter adverb win the day is literally amazing.’
‘Literally’ began its rise to prominence in Britain during the latter part of 2004 when literally every Premiership footballer began to use the term in post-match television interviews. Most footballers literally have no formal education, but their words often carry great weight with fans up and down the country, and it wasn’t long before the term literally caught on like wildfire.
However, not everyone is happy with the terms literally meteoric rise to the top. There are concerns in linguistic circles, for example, that the word is being misused on a daily basis by literally nearly all of the British population.
‘When all is said and done, it is literally the most superfluous term you can use in the English lexicon,’ said Peter Forbes, chairman of the Queen’s English Society. ‘You are literally placing emphasis on a word that requires none. I literally won’t rest until the word is used only in its proper, literal sense.’