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Soup of This Day #332: Bother Me Tomorrow, Today I’ll Buy No Sorrows

September 10, 2013

Wheat Field with Cypresses
Detail from Van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses. It’s got pickles and a football – Image: Vincent Van Gogh, 1889. Vincent Van Gogh is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped (eaten) by Longworth72.

There’s a lot of folks who aren’t happy with the way the word ‘literally’ gets used nowadays. This might seem like a storm in a teacup – After all, there are a fair number of other words which you’d think would naturally rate higher on the annoyance league table.

Like ‘Hitler’. I for 1 would be unhappy to hear ‘Hitler’ and ‘I’ll be your sandwich artist’ in the same sentence. Now that I think about it, just hearing someone described as a ‘sandwich artist’ is kind of annoying by itself, unless of course they are replicating detail from Van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses via some pickles, mozzarella and advocado on white.

Which would be impressive, but hey, let’s keep that bread knife away from the ears kids.

‘Literally’ though is getting peoples goat. Literally.

And no, that doesn’t mean that it is actually getting people’s goat. I don’t even have a goat to be gotten and the overuse of ‘literally’ drives me crazy. This example though highlights the problem – You see, it used to be the case that when someone said ‘literally’ they meant literally – As in exactly.

For instance, if you said that you were literally about to explode with joy, then bystanders could reasonably expect you to explode and therefore could take proactive steps to protect themselves from your suddenly ejected colon.

It no longer means that though, at least, not always. It could still mean that but now it could also mean not that as well. In other words, in the case above, it might mean that the speaker is not actually going to explode – They have instead used the term ‘literally’ to add some extra emphasis. Because they’re a time-bomb of joy.

They could have said that with a metaphor. Like I did. There is no time-bomb of joy. Joy being just the last thing that time-bombs are about.

And that’s the problem. Unlike with a metaphor, the people who use ‘literally’ the other way have given the same word opposite meanings and without context to help clarify the situation. This is confusing – I’m all for not following the pedantic rules of grammar but seriously, if you’re using ambiguous words then be prepared for others to not be able to understand you and for the whole thing to blow up in your face.

There’s a similar identity crisis in sport. The term ‘football’ applies to a number of different sporting codes – I can count 6.

All of these are commonly called football. Only 1 of them though unequivocally uses the feet as the main mechanism for propelling the ball. Another does use kicking as a prime method of getting the ball around, while a further 2 put feet to ball a small to moderate amount of the time. The remaining 2 of the codes hardly use feet-on-ball action at all and would be better known as handball, if that hadn’t already been taken.

What makes this worse is that the 1st code mentioned above is more popularly known as soccer, usually in regions with other codes of football that dominate. So they’ve taken the 1 code that is most literally football, and called it something else.

Americans, this is why the English get annoyed with you. That and you wasted a lot of tea that 1 time. Also George W Bush.

Here in Australia by contrast we’ve taken the whole thing seriously and over the past 10 years have progressively phased out the term ‘soccer’ from our sporting vocabulary: The National Soccer League (NSL) became the A-League in 2004, coinciding with the Australian Soccer Association (ASA) becoming Football Federation Australia (FFA).

The latter switch would have been particularly soothing for sporting pedants – Given that ‘soccer’ is a contraction of the 1st word in ‘Association football’, then you could have made a case for it being the Australian Association Association.

Meanwhile our other codes just adapted – They’re known by other names – Australian rules football tends to be called AFL (Australian Football League) after it’s primary league, while rugby league had a mostly clear and natural handle all along. Rugby union is just known as rugby or sometimes union.

Overseas and the situation is handled a little less elegantly in the United States, where soccer steadfastly remains soccer and football refers to American football, a game where the ball is generally moved by hand and is only kicked by 2 designated players whose names hardly anybody seems to remember.

Apologies to Chris Kluwe – Whose name is remembered, possibly because he stands up for stuff. That’s also possibly why he currently has no job kicking footballs.

This does lead to some confusion when I see the following:


Best. Promo. Ever. Thanks to Sarah Silverman for bringing it back into the light.

Ok, so I’m confused by a lot of things in that promo – Like how that ace cheerleader whips off her flight suit so smoothly. Mostly what I’m referring to though, is that in what seemed like a couple of hours of footage, only once did I see a ball being kicked and even then only for the briefest of moments. What I did get a lot of was the ball being thrown and carried plus some footage of assorted military hardware in action.

And dancing girls.

I hope that Pyongyang hasn’t tuned in because they’ll have worked out that America’s generals have an offensive play that will involve turning the Statue of Liberty all rowdy like.

Meanwhile, I’m sad to report that this promo was pulled by US broadcaster ABC before it really got the party started, after Hank Williams Jr., the star of the number, made a comment likening President Obama to Adolf Hitler. In the same interview he suggested that John Boehner was like Benjamin Netanyahu and then suggested that Hitler and Netanyahu would never have played golf together.

Which is very literal – The current Israeli Prime Minister was born 4 years after the Nazi leader died. Also, the latter was a psychotic madman intent on murdering the very Jewish people that the former leads.

When queried about his confusing analogy Hank gave 1 of the all-time great explanations:

‘They’re the enemy… Obama! And Biden! Are you kidding? The Three Stooges.’

Except obviously there’s only 2 of them in Hank’s world.

So Hank isn’t big on being literal in the exact sense. He’s also not really making exact sense metaphorically either.

All of which has got me confused. Not only do I not know when someone is being literal any more – I’m also confused by what they mean when they talk of football. And Monday nights. And the number 2. It’s got my head spinning around.

Metaphorically.

Bother Me Tomorrow, Today I’ll Buy No Sorrows

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