Hello Europe!

This evening I was at my parents’ house, watching a little TV after Sunday dinner. I don’t really watch much TV anymore, at least not in the conventional broadcast sense, apart from Sunday afternoons at home. Gaelic football matches are the usual background noise to Sunday-afternoon dinner, but we had it a bit later today, so I found myself watching an interesting nature programme.

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Literally Unbelievable

Is there a word as commonly misused as literally? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:

In a literal manner or sense; exactly:

‘the driver took it literally when asked to go straight over the roundabout’
‘tiramisu, literally translated ‘pull-me-up’’
The opposite of literally is figuratively. We’d mostly use this word if there were a chance that something we said could be taken literally, or if we wanted to refer to both figurative and literal uses of the same phrase. For example:
The mysterious blackout left people both literally and figuratively in the dark.
Yet if the meanings of these two words are so diametrically opposed, why would people make apparently obvious mistakes with them? Here are some of the most egregious mistakes I’ve come across:

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How to Use Apostrophes

That little  chap there is by far and away the punctuation mark that causes people the most consternation, for a variety of reasons. Some hate it because they have no idea what to do with it, and others hate it because those first people have no idea what to do with it, and it drives them crazy to see it misused or not used at all. Before getting into why people have difficulties with it, and why that infuriates others, let’s look at the basic rules of using the apostrophe. It has three basic functions: Continue reading