When discussing words that have lost their effectiveness or, by misuse, their definition I have come across three more words that need a lifeline:
1. Literally . . . The following statement was actually said on a prominent 24-hour news channel yesterday: “The senator was literally blown away when he heard the results of the vote.” So he’s dead? Literally is something that actually happened. If the word is completely left out, stating that the senator was just blown away, everyone understands that it is meant figuratively.
2. Affect/Effect . . . I have covered this one before, but I notice it so many times in blog posts, various printed articles, as well as spoken. Affect (verb) and Effect (noun) are the best ways to remember how to use it. The effect of the ride affected his ability of walk to the team bus.
3. Surreal . . . defined as intense irrational reality of a dream . . . this does not mean that when, one glorious day, I am able to ride my bike in the mountains of France that it will be surreal. Surreal is so overused that the effectiveness has dimmed. Allow me to give two examples: The surreal event of tanks occupying the small town in Russia left the little boy numb all over. The flowers of the coral reef had a surreal impact on the diver, as the colors floated and pulsed underwater. Being at Disney World, after wanting to be there your entire life, doesn’t seem to appear as intensely irrational. Winning the World Cup isn’t surreal if you play on a team that is very good and was favored to be a possible winner.