An all-out assault on the English language

illustration2214.jpgSome use the word “like,” or the phrase “you know” incessantly between sentences. Others say “um.” But those are just a few of the filler words that students are using, and in most cases, in improper context.

The word “literally” has been saturating young adults’ vocabulary lately. It’s becoming a terrifying epidemic and perhaps an even scarier premonition on what is to become of the English language. Some of the most offensive remarks overheard at APU and posted on social media sites include:

“Like, literally, I can’t even deal with it.”

“I literally died” (after watching a funny video on YouTube) – Really? How did you manage to reincarnate so quickly?

And the most atrocious use of all: “I’ve literally been running around like a headless chicken lately.” What a disturbing image and a monumental incorrect usage of the word! One, you are not a chicken. Two, you are not headless.

With inaccurate statements being thrown around, only one quote comes to mind, from fictional character Inigo Montoya in “The Princess Bride”:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

In conjunction with the “literally” plague (and equally nauseating), college students are using acronyms and abbreviations in verbal conversations – for example, “Oh Em Gee” (“OMG” or, “Oh my God”) and, “That’s so obvi” (obvious).

According to the CIA website, the English language is spoken by nearly 380 million people worldwide, making it one of the most recognizable and spoken languages. In countries where English is not the primary language, English is the second most-used alternative. It is used in copious realms such as business, education and health.

Despite the importance and popularity of proper English, young adults across the U.S. are butchering their native language. It’s cray cray.

First, we should begin with the definition of the word “literally.” The online Oxford Dictionary defines it as “in a literal sense of manner; exactly; without exaggeration.”

But the definitions found on seem much more accurate and clarifying:

“Often used on Facebook by idiots. Adverb carrying the meaning of ‘figuratively’. In real life means ‘literally. OMG my phone it’s [sic] literally blowin up wit [sic] texts rite [sic] now.“ This definition was written by an online commentator with the username SarcasticBastard.

Another user, zupdave, uploaded a definition June 23, 2006 describing “literally” as: “A word my girlfriend and her friends use to pronunciate [sic] everything….literally. Literally, you need to stop saying that word….Literally you have said that word one thousand times today. I am so sick of that word, literally!!…..

Though it might seem like a minor offense and is clearly not harming anyone (physically), there are major downsides to shortening and misusing your words. According to Dr. Marcia Berry, associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies and an oral interpretation and public speaking expert, misusing a word or using abbreviations portrays a lack of education and conversational skills.

“Education and experience teaches us that we speak in the language the listener understands,” Berry said. “Education also gives us broader experiences to share and a wider vocabulary to use.”

Poor communication skills can also reflect an inaccurate image of yourself. In an interview with International Business Times, J. Mark Fox, a communications professor at Elon University in Elon, N.C., told his interviewer that he instructs his students to avoid using filler words like “um”, “you know,” “literally” and “like”.

“They [excessive filler words] give the impression to the [listener] that the speaker is not very intelligent, even though they may be extremely bright,” Fox said.

Verbal and written communication skills are obviously important. They deserve the same respect in informal surroundings as in professional environments. Your communication is a projection of yourself. Eloquent and proper speech shows you are educated, mature, composed and detail-oriented, which will boost your prospects of future employment.

So stop speaking in horrendous abbreviations and start taking words seriously. Your ability to communicate effectively will affect almost every aspect of your life, like, literally.