I’m like literally
All my life, while having traveled the world and seen many wondrous things, I’ve remained like literally a simple, innocent, wide-eyed Ohio farm boy.
You might not believe it, but I was like literally born in a log cabin I built with my own hands. I walked like literally seven miles each day to third grade four years in a row uphill through the deep summer snows both ways. That was after getting up at 3 a.m. to milk the neighbor dogs so we could have macaroni and Doberman cheese for dinner or else just like literally chew on our shoes for nutrition.
Every Christmas morning I was like literally thrilled to wake up to a lump of coal because it meant either being warm for five minutes or writing my stories on the side of the family barn I also built.
Sure, times were tough, but I was like literally happy.
I was different than other kids in school, like literally.
While teachers were teaching “figurative” concepts like metaphors, similes, personification, hyperbole and symbolism, and later on postmodern tropes such as self-referentiality, epistemological and moral relativism, pluralism, subjectivism and irreverence, unlike the other kids I like literally had no idea what all of this stuff meant.
I thought “deconstruction” was what finally happened to the log cabin I built and “derrida” was the result of eating too much Doberman cheese.
It hasn’t always been easy to be like literal.
For example, I remember when my father was driving our Ford Fairlane station wagon on the highway taking us to the A&W root beer drive-in where the onion rings were even better than church.
One day, along the way, I noticed a sign on the highway that said, “Do not pass.” “STOP!!!” I screamed, causing my dad to slam on the brakes and our car to be violently rear-ended and flip several times in slow motion until landing in a ditch upside down.
After welders extricated us, my three mortally injured siblings were rushed to the hospital for triage and bone grafts, and the police, fire and emergency crews cleared up the worst 15-car chain accident in history, my dad took me aside and patiently explained to me that the sign “Do not pass” doesn’t mean you can’t pass the sign. It means cars may not pass one another.
“Oh!” I exclaimed understandingly, like Franklin W. Dixon, the fictional author of the Hardy Boys mystery series, would have Frank or Joe Hardy exclaim.
For another example, I thought the “Slow Children” sign in front of our house like literally was in reference to Davey, the kid next door who couldn’t walk normally on account of his clunky leg braces. But Davey said the sign in fact pertained to me.
I like literally didn’t get that then. Now I would say, “Excellent burn, Davey. Also, I saw your profile in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, so congratulations on your Nobel Prize, MacArthur ‘genius’ grant, and selling your app to Google for ten billion dollars. Also getting those braces off and winning the Boston Marathon.”
In another example, I like literally didn’t know what the “yield” road sign meant. The dictionary was no help. Yield means “to produce or provide,” which seems to mean go, produce and provide your automobile unto the intersection, forget about the other driver. But yield also means to “give way” as to let the other driver go first.
Who else has lost his driver’s license because of this confusion and has to like literally walk seven miles to the 7–11 for dinner? I know, right?
And what about the “deer crossing” signs? How do deer know to cross there?
Taking things like literally has been a blessing and a curse.
It’s a curse because sarcastic people use “irony” to say things they don’t like literally mean. Or when they actually mean “coincidence” or “paradox” or “bad luck,” like rain on your wedding day, a free ride when you’ve already paid, and good advice that you just didn’t take.
“That singer was deliberately misusing ‘ironic’ to be ironic,” many people who are familiar with postmodern tropes are saying without like literally knowing her.
So you never know when people are being “ironic,” especially if they don’t use those finger air quotes because they look stupid in person and can’t be seen over the phone, and irony doesn’t come across in email or texting except as hostility. Ironic people somehow think tone of voice or a colon with a closed parenthesis like literally suffices.
“Nice outfit, Jeff” can mean either a) appreciation for my usual men’s midriff gingham blouse that shows off my remarkable innie, my Marimekko dirndl skirt that says I have the hips to bring it off, and my pork-pie hat cocked jauntily; or b) I’m the butt of a sly insult by a judgy fashion fail in cargo shorts who is like literally jealous.
Being like literal can also make life like literally richer.
For example, when some people see a Popeye’s restaurant, they think about delicious fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, and coronary heart disease. Others are reminded of a beloved cartoon sailor man who was strong to the finish because he ate his spinach and loved Olive Oyl. (And we know what “strong to the finish” means.)
But when I see Popeye’s, I like literally see “Pope Yes,” revealing that the fast-food franchise is secretly owned by the Roman Catholic Church and part of the Pontiff’s deep state conspiracy to get more people addicted to Catholicism.
For another example, when you mention Yosemite National Park to most people, they imagine the majestic and breathtaking vistas of America’s natural beauty that only God could create.
When I see Yosemite, it like literally makes me think it’s how people “in da ‘hood” greet a person who is Jewish.
You know, “Yo, Semite!”
Some people who use irony think I’m trying to be funny. People who are like literal are not amused.
Finally, I am confused by all this talk about the president of our country.
Someone said, “The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”
This is like literally impossible for a naive Midwestern lad like me to understand. But I needed to voice my opinion like everyone else is doing and use modern words and expressions to be “hep”.
Someone told me to go to Urban Dictionary, but from what I saw, I think he was being ironic. Then I looked up “how do Millennials talk?” on the internet. That was way more helpful.
So here’s what I think about our president:
“Whatever, brosef, bae — TBH I be woke and on fleek and seriously lit and turnt up. Basic AF, but I’m rachet, so bye Felecia, swerve, FOH because duh. Sorry not sorry. Chill. Gotta bounce. Seriously like literally.”
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer