Monday, 28 October 2013


Wet and windy, fair later

Awake as ever in time to switch on the and hear this morning's Shipping Forecast provided by courtesy of the Meteorological Office, for the sea areas and coastal waters around Britain.

Not at all the usual tour. Glasses are falling and storm warnings are hoisted, for the what is forecast to be the worst Atlantic storm to hit the British Isles in decades.

Here in the balmy Midlands the pavements remain dry and the leaves still hang limply on the trees. The news bulletin, however, tells a different story from Southern England and South Wales. We shall get ours later this morning, it is confidently predicted. Then by tea-time, it is predicted with equal confidence, the whole thing will have blown over – literally*, having passed right across the south of the country and exited into the North Sea.

In parts of the southern Britain rush hour has been cancelled.

It certainly been has been for me...

*   A milestone!  It must be sixty years since my attention was drawn to the absurdity of the common use of the word 'literally' to mean in fact its opposite, robbing a useful word word of meaning and robbing it of the very emphatic sense that its use is intended to evoke.

Oh, that I should have should been beset by so many examples of the same process since, not least in my working live, and not least in the philological swamp of Conductive Education. This has not been as humanly destructive a process as the foolish over-prescription of antibiotics, but culturally it presents its own little process of iatrogenesis

I do not know why I took it so to heart, this early warning about the misuse of 'literally, but I have never once used the word since. Is it with great pleasure therefore that I can use use it here, literally, in the sense in which it was intended, and just maybe squeeze out a final drop of its remaining emphatic force from the sheer unusualness of its being employed in such a way.

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