I have hard words, here, for certain honorable and good-hearted, right-thinking individuals, but I cannot apologize any more than I can dissemble. My words here are directed at those who decry what they call a travesty, a sin of degeneracy, an attack on the purity of language: the acceptance of "literally" when used in a figurative way.
There is no legitimate reason to object to this use of "literally."
It is nothing more than an exaggeration for dramatic effect - albeit, one that has largely passed into idiom. Haven't you people heard of hyperbole? "Literally" for "figuratively" is a clear instance.
I love to spring that one on a stickler! But I do it with a heavy heart, because my sympathies in many ways lie with such sticklers.
The worst is, it's perfectly true. Hyperbole is hyperbole. It's a rhetorical device. The word "figurative" may be an antonym of the word "literal" when considering their denotative values, but we know that figurative speech does not create a conflict or difficulty, here. When you speak figuratively, typically you say something that "ain't so." Generally, it's very clear that it ain't so. It doesn't matter that it ain't so.
The fact that it ain't so is not beside the point, it is the point. The exaggeration of "literally" for "figuratively" is in no way worse than the exaggeration of "absolutely" used in a case that is not definite, comprehensive, absolute. This perfectly legitimate rhetorical use. You use hyperbole to convey your excess of feeling in the matter.
Oh, you can call me absolutely wrong, here. But you know full well that if you do - you're literally an ass.