Meltdown Literally

The fellow quoted at the end of this Reuters article is the CEO of a nuclear consultancy company. Considering the brainpower it must take to run a nuclear consultancy, his wild overuse of ‘literally’  stood out like a unicorn in a centaur convention.

“People literally probably did not know this was happening, either the instruments were wrong that were measuring the water level, were damaged in the earthquake, or they literally had people scrambling dealing with so many other problems at the plant they had no one’s eyes on the level of the water in the spent fuel pools,” said Seth Grae, chief executive of nuclear consultancy LightBridge Corp.

“My guess is that if they had, they could have dealt with this before it ever became a big problem … we’re literally talking about a hose.”

I checked COCA corpus and sure enough, he used ‘literally’ a hell of a lot in that quote.

According to the corpus ‘literally’ shows up 57.91 times per one million spoken words. This low number makes sense; other than reading the Reuters article out loud and visting this website I didn’t say the word once today. It also makes sense that ‘literally’ shows up way less in print, most in magazines (36.42 per million) and least in fiction (17.80). The fiction usage surprised me at first but I guess a fiction writer doesn’t need to be hucking literally around when fictional descriptions are quite obviously meant to be literal.

So how does Seth Grae’s literal use compare to the 57.91 per million corpus record? In a 83 word quote he says ‘literally’ 3 times.  That means ‘literally’ comprised 3.6% of Seth’s words, whereas ‘literally’ accounts for .000005% of  all corpus spoken words.

Who am I to judge though, I’m not a linguist. I am, however, a nuclear scientist and let me tell you: Japan is no Chernobyl. I know because I was working in Sweden at the Forsmark plant when Bjob leans over to me and say, “Don’t get pissed but I’ve got nuclear particles in my pants.”  And I said, “Again?” and next thing I know the whole plant is going berserk looking for the Bjob’s newest mistake. But it turned out to be the goddamn Soviets and I spent the rest of ’86 passing iodine tables in northern USSR. Hell of a year.

Best part about that stretch, though, was coming back stateside to the strike shortened ’87 NFL season and seeing some rookie run all over the Broncos in the second quarter of Superbowl XXII. And now I got to think that these two current events, Fukushima and NFL labor breakdowns are some sort of sign so I’m going to make a killing in the iodine game and book up some New York hotel rooms. The Redskins are literally going to the show, baby.

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