It’s odd how words sometimes change meanings over time to the point their definitions end up opposite of how they started. One recent example is “literally.”
The BBC reports that Oxford English Dictionary editors have decided “literally” now means “metaphorically.” In other words, it doesn’t refer to something that is factually true, as it did in the good ‘ol days. Common misuse by us English-speaking types has changed it, so now “literally” may be employed for exaggerated emphasis.
It used to trouble me to hear someone say, for instance, “He literally ran his legs off!” to express admiration for a fast runner. In fact, you could say hearing something like that drove me up the wall, metaphorically speaking. Now, according to the Oxford Dictionary folks, I can say “It literally drove me up the wall!” with a straight face and not concern myself with having alluded to a physical impossibility.
Another example is “liberal.” In the early days of our republic, it denoted someone who favored liberty. Liberals wanted to throw off the shackles of government and live free, unhindered by excessive regulations. In twenty-first-century America, liberals favor large government as a way of taking care of our citizenry.
Some who think this way misuse the preamble to our Constitution, which says it was created in order to “promote the general welfare,” as a way of justifying our welfare system. Our Founders must be spinning in their graves at this new interpretation. It’s hardly what they had in mind.
The latest term to change definitions is “affordable” as in the Affordable Care Act, which for 45 of 50 states is not affordable at all. The Heritage Foundation analyzed the expected cost increases for individual states in two age groups — those 27 years of age and those 50 years of age. Oklahoma’s increase in insurance premiums is 57.8 percent for 27-year-olds and 21.8 percent for 50-year-olds. Compared to some other states, our residents got off easy.