George W. Bush calls in to tell Hoda and Jenna why the word 'literally' is overused
George W. Bush is "on a campaign" to stop people from overusing the word "literally."
The former U.S. president shared an impromptu vocabulary lesson by phone on TODAY Wednesday while talking to daughter Jenna Bush Hager and Hoda Kotb on the fourth hour.
"I think the word 'literally' is overused for several reasons. One, it's misunderstood. Two, it's become a convenient habit," Bush began, before pausing to ask Hoda if she misuses the word herself.
"I'm literally talking to you right now, and I love it," joked Hoda. "I love every second of it."
The word "literally" is often used as a filler, Bush responded. "You could have just said, 'I'm talking to you,'" he pointed out.
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Using expressions like "I'm literally burning up" are always incorrect, said Hoda — unless, of course, the person speaking is actually on fire. So when should people use the word "literally," she asked Bush.
"Well, that's a good question," the former president replied.
Jenna interjected, "I think when you're talking about books, Dad, right? And literature."
Related: The former president and first lady shared what they're like as grandparents and talked about Jenna's failed bid to become a national anthem singer.
Jenna's father thought that might be so but decided to leave further word usage tips to English language experts.
"I’m confident there are people who are better wordsmiths than me. I’m the guy that came up with ‘strategery,'" Bush joked, referring to a famous "Saturday Night Live" sketch that poked fun at the former president's reputation for mispronouncing words.
"I have just been on a campaign to try to get people to use 'literally' less," Bush said.
Those English language experts would probably explain that "literally" means "exactly" or in a literal sense. One example: The party was attended by literally hundreds of people.
So, unless the party was actually attended by hundreds of people, you should drop the word "literally," they'd advise.