Education from An Exasperated Eavesdropper

This post is part of the “Blogging from A-Z April Challenge”! The “E” themed inspiration for today is “eavesdropping.” Enjoy!

As someone who spends at least an hour in public transit everyday, I do my fair share of eavesdropping.

Recently, while sitting on a bus ride, I overheard a girl around my age explaining to her friend:

“Sarah’s my best friend! She’s literally twelve. But she’s actually eighteen. But literally…she’s twelve.”


Apparently this all made sense to her, as she continued on in this manner:

“They sat around and talked about cabbages for literally…I mean, ACTUALLY four hours.”

Then after all this, as if sensing my confusion:

“There’s a big difference between literally and actually. Literally.”

Ah. It all makes sense.

Or…NOT, wait, what?

Let’s just clear some things up. From


1. In the literal or strict sense
2. In a literal manner; word for word
3. Actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy

Actually: truly real, existent


You are actually on fire!

You can’t use “literally” when making an exaggeration. Or else you sound like a fool. Eg. You cannot say: “I’m literally moving mountains,” in reference to, say, adopting a cat. You are not displacing sizable features of the Earth. You are adopting a cat. Instead try, “I’m adopting a cat.”

Similarly, “actually” cannot be used figuratively, or when making an exaggeration. You can’t say, “I’m actually on fire,” when you wear a fur coat outside on a hot day. Unless there are flames on your person, you are not, actually, on fire. Instead, you could say, “I am wearing a fur coat outside on a hot day. I am actually stupid.”

You are relatively warm.

It’s simple, see? Use your words right and I’ll be that much closer to understanding you when I eavesdrop on your conversations. Because of this confusion I’ll never know if that friend is twelve or eighteen, or if a group of people talked about cabbages for four hours or not. And in my zombie-like, bored-out-of-my-mind, transiting mode, I’m figuratively dying to know.

(Coming up tomorrow on The A-Z Challenge: ‘F’ is for “Failure”.)

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7 thoughts on “Education from An Exasperated Eavesdropper

  1. Hi, just hopped over on the A -Z Challenge. Loving your blog posts, this one is very amusing – looking forward to reading more as the challenge rolls on.

  2. This is one of those things that just drives me nuts. And I’m rude enough to call people out on it. One of my workers once said, “That person was literally making a mountain out of a mole hill.” I said, “Literally? That’s actually pretty cool, because we could use a mountain in Minnesota.”

    • I love it when people use it incorrectly, so long as there’s someone else there who can laugh at it with me, because usually the person using it doesn’t understand why it’s wrong. Sometimes the imagery they create is very…inspiring?

  3. Pingback: Mew, Mew, it’s The A-Z Challenge, in Review! | ...So Help Me Cats

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