What happens when something is literally this or that, said in a literal manner or sense? One assumption is that non-literal senses are exaggerated, so when we are being literal, we mean business, we are honest and don’t try to deceive through words and turns of phrases.
The literal sense is candid, whereas an idiom is not. You can’t be sure what lies behind an expression, but the literal meaning of a word is shared property, clear and unequivocal.
Literalism is a plead for credence. This is literally true makes a stronger claim than a simple appeal to truthfulness. ‘I was literally there’ is more ‘locational’ than just being there.
Language is an arcade-type journey through reality. Some stepping stones may further the game and earn point, others may be setbacks and even claim lives. Medieval thinkers discovered that everything, starting with the word of God, is a bundle of literalism and metaphor, plainness and equivocation. How does one navigate with these coordinates? We may have left theology behind, but the challenge of language and interpretation remains. And literalism feels safe and stronger, like mathematical truth, a temptation constantly hovering over our words.
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