There is a very important question being tackled again by certain smart people of the Internet, and that question is this: What, exactly, is the worst word on the entire planet? Any time this question or one like it is broached, an opened floodgate of response is ensured, likely to include words like moist, fecund, phlegm, artisanal, or if you work at TheNew Yorker,slacks. We continue to believe that coöperationis öffensive, as is the corresponding word, diaeresis, which remains ever so hard to spell no matter how many times we type it.
On Thursday Sarah Miller made a strong argument on The Awl for literally as our English-speaking community’s worst word. This is not a bad word to choose as the very worst. Flagrant misuses abound, and it’s ever so annoying when people say literally when they actually mean not literally. Literally, in fact, is rarely used when it should be used, which is almost never, and almost always when it shouldn’t. […]
Literally is a word that we should be very, very careful around. But actually I think there’s a word that’s worse.Actually, did you see what I did there? While literally and actually can be used interchangeably, actually has a bad attitude. Literallycan be mocked and laughed at, because literally almost no one uses it correctly. Actually is more sneaky, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Actually is the word that you use when you’re actually saying, “You are wrong, and I am right, and you are at least a little bit of an idiot.”