Simulacra and Simile: This Post is Really, Like, Super Important -->

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Simulacra and Simile: This Post is Really, Like, Super Important

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"That really, seriously, just happened, like, literally, two minutes ago."
In our daily lives, we all tend to use words such as “really,” “seriously,” and “literally” to convey a certain meaning or provide emphasis for our speech. In scholarly writing, those words are often considered unnecessary and hyperbolic (purposeful exaggeration). And just as in our scholarly writing, these words serve a specific function in our informal speech.
Let’s take the introduction quote as an example: the words “really,” “literally,” and “seriously” are all added to emphasize the verb “happen.”
Something that just happened occurred within a specific time period. For example, a phenomenon that occurred 60 minutes ago did not just happen; conversely, an event that occurred within the last 15 minutes probably just happened. To make sure to close the gap between happening and just happening, we often add the adverb “seriously” to emphasis proximity. Then the time gap shrinks to within a minute or two of the event.

So, you might ask, what word is at the core of needing these repeated and quite superfluous emphases? One simple word: like.
"You should, like, seriously, read this."
"Like” is a simile (“a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of different kind”) that is most often found in poetry; it also means “similar to,” “in the manner of,” and finally, “used in speech as a meaningless filler or to signify the speaker’s uncertainty” (all definitions from my Mac Dictionary). The last one is my favorite; yet, it does not convey the true significance of the word “like.” For that, we need another example.
Bill: "What's up? What did you do today?" 
Gill: "Oh, nothing much. We, you know, like, threw the football around a bit."
So, now I ask you: What did Gill do today? Did he throw the football around? Well, technically, no. 
When Gill uses the simile “like,” he states that he did something like throwing a football around. He performed a simulation that resembles throwing a football around; therefore, he may or may not have thrown the football around. We don’t know.

So, he didn’t throw the football around. So what?

Well then, smarty-pants, if Gill is telling Bill that he did not do something that he says he did, then how does he reverse the negative of “not doing” to prove that he did it? Easy: he uses emphasis.
Bill: "What's up? What did you do today?"
Gill: "Oh, nothing much. We, you know, like, threw the football around a bit. Man, once, Lill threw it really hard and I had to run super fast to, like, just catch it, you know?! That was crazy."
Gill has provided some much needed emphasis in order to substantiate his earlier claim that he was, indeed, throwing the football around. Both the words “really” and “super fast” provide hyperbole that overcompensates for the nothingness of simulation, proving to Bill that he actually did do something. He did so much of something that he really did this something. And it was amazing! Really!

Cut out words like "really," "actually," "literally," and "seriously."

For a super simple and really fast way to rid your essay of all the unnecessary "really"s, "actually"s, "literally"s, and "seriously"s, check out Writing Instructor Anne Shiell's instructional post on using Microsoft Word’s Find + Replace function for specific language.

A seasoned traveler, Writing Instructor Shawn Picht enjoys working with students from around the globe. In his free time, he likes to jog, jump rope, read literature and philosophy, write about his travels, and play Rolling Stones and Dylan songs on a blue acoustic guitar. This post was adapted from a post on his personal blog.

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