The Pentagon Literally Tossed Millions of Dollars Into the Trash
War Is Boring
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“The Pentagon Literally Tossed Millions of Dollars Into the Trash”

Misusing the word literally in this way does not reflect well on the education of the author of an otherwise interesting and well-written article.

The Pentagon may waste a lot of money, but this article does not show that they literally tossed any dollars into the trash. The word literally is reserved for when you want to indicate that the exact thing you described actually happened. What the Pentagon did is waste a lot of money, which is, figuratively speaking, tossing dollars into the trash. It is not the same as literally tossing dollars into the trash.

For instance, if cats and dogs were actually falling from the sky, and you wanted to make that clear, you could say it was literally raining cats and dogs. This is how you let the reader know that something which might usually be interpreted as a figure of speech is, in your usage, not a figure of speech, but an accurate description. Once you start misusing the word literally, it loses its usefulness.

I was disappointed to read that the Pentagon had not been literally tossing money into the trash, but would not be surprised to learn someday that it had.

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