I liked Biden’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. But he should leave the ad-libbing to Bill Clinton. His prepared text, which you can read here, is fine. But his ad libs showed a strange, almost obsessive penchant for the word literally. As a blogger for the Washington Post put it:
At the beginning of the speech, which went on only slightly less long than it seemed to go on, Joe spoke about his love for his wife. But as the speech went on it became clear where his true affections lay: nestled around the word “literally.”
Here is the text as delivered. I count ten occurrences of literally. Sometimes he used it correctly; sometimes he used it incorrectly. It didn’t seem to matter to Joe. It served as an all-purpose intensifier with which to punch up the speech. At one point the text says:
My fellow Americans, we now find ourselves at the hinge of history. And the direction we turn is in your hands.
But here Joe doubled down on his favorite word and said: “And the direction we turn is not figuratively, is literally in your hands.” Yikes. (By the way, double down has become a trendy political term. Here is an article on Romney doubling down on his initial response to the latest trouble in the Middle East. At least it doesn’t say that Romney was literally doubling down.)
Of course, complaining about the misuse of literally is just pedantry, as well as a lost cause. Here is xkcd, as usual making the point perfectly: