Amid tears, assurances on the structural integrity of President Obama's spine, betting advice and stories about cars, Joe Biden returned to one theme again and again--for a total of 10 times in his speech to the Democratic National Convention Thursday night.
"I want to show you the character of a leader who had what it took when the American people literally stood on the brink of a new depression, a leader who has what it takes to lead us over the next four years to a future as great as our people," Biden said.
"[Obama] knew that no matter how tough the decisions he had to make were in that Oval Office, he knew that families all over America sitting at their kitchen tables were literally making decisions for their family that were equally as consequential."
Biden liberally peppered the oft-misued word "literally" in his speech, and he, well, misused it.
And Twitter took notice.
Has somebody made a graphic that gathers together in two groups Biden's correct and incorrect uses of "literally"?— Andrew Kueneman (@andrewkueneman) September 7, 2012
Joe Biden has literally used the word literally wrong around a billion times in this speech. Literally.— Will McAvoy (@WillMcAvoyACN) September 7, 2012
Joe Biden and I are literally flying to Alpha Centauri to battle an army of giant space-lobsters right now.— BillCorbett (@BillCorbett) September 7, 2012
I'd like to see a debate between, frankly, Gingrich, and literally, Biden.— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) September 7, 2012
Every time Joe Biden misused the word "literally" an angel falls and bets against the American people.— Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) September 7, 2012
Folks, Biden's speech is literally channeling Clint Eastwood's "Halftime in America" commercial.— Nate Silver (@fivethirtyeight) September 7, 2012
34,567 Americans died Thursday night while playing the "Drink When Biden Says 'Literally'" game.— Fake Dispatch (@Fake_Dispatch) September 7, 2012
The Vice President is known for deviating from the teleprompter and speaking off the cuff, sometimes getting himself into trouble along the way. And, as it turns out, none of his 10 "literallys" were in his prepared remarks.
But it seems the Obama campaign wasn't terribly upset about Biden's turn for the literal, instead taking notice of the rise in traffic on Twitter and buying the search term.
Obama campaign buys twitter search term "literally" twitter.com/AlexSkatell/st…— Alex Skatell (@AlexSkatell) September 7, 2012
(YouTube politics has since replaced the Obama campaign's ad.)
Grammar sticklers love to pounce when public figures flub, and "literally" is a regular cause of a slip. Even The Oatmeal has weighed in on the word in his trademark slightly disturbing fashion.
But Merriam-Webster online suggests that the English language has adapted to allow a more figurative definition of "literally."
1: in a literal sense or manner : actually
2: in effect : virtually
Since "literal" is defined as "adhering to fact or to the ordinary construction or primary meaning of a term or expression, actual," there appears to be an inherent contradiction. But the usage has changed such that the second, figurative definition is "hyperbole intended to gain emphasis, but it often appears in contexts where no additional emphasis is necessary."
Following the video, all ten uses of "literally" in Biden's speech.
The 10 times Joe Biden used "literally" at his DNC speech
1. "I want to show you the character of a leader who had what it took when the American people literally stood on the brink of a new depression, a leader who has what it takes to lead us over the next four years to a future as great as our people," Biden said.
2. "He knew that no matter how tough the decisions he had to make were in that Oval Office, he knew that families all over America sitting at their kitchen tables were literally making decisions for their family that were equally as consequential."
3. "Let me tell you about how Barack Obama saved more than a million American jobs. In the first — in the first days, literally the first days that we took office, General Motors and Chrysler were literally on the verge of liquidation."
4. "When things hung in the balance — I mean, literally hung in the balance — the president understood this was about a lot more than the automobile industry."
5. "Look, Barack understood that the search for bin Laden was about a lot more than taking a monstrous leader off the battlefield. It was about so much more than that. It was about righting an unspeakable wrong. It was about — literally, it was about — it was about healing an unbearable wound, a nearly unbearable wound in America's heart."
6. "Most of all, President Obama had an unyielding faith in the capacity and the capability of our special forces, literally the finest warriors in the history of the world."
7. "Folks, Governor Romney believes it's OK to raise taxes on middle classes by $2,000 in order to pay for another — literally another trillion-dollar tax cut for the very wealthy. President Obama knows that there's nothing decent or fair about asking people with more to do less and with less to do more."
8. "What he doesn't understand is all these men and women are looking for is a chance, just a chance to acquire the skills to be able to provide for their families so they can once again hold their heads high and lead independent lives with dignity. That's all they're looking for. Look — and it literally amazes me they don't understand that."
9 and 10. "My fellow Americans, we now — we now — and we now find ourselves at the hinge of history. And the direction we turn is not figuratively, is literally in your hands."