I can't help feeling that too many people misuse the word "literally". A couple of Sundays ago I heard a much respected Scottish writer on the radio say that something had happened "literally 18 months ago". It either happened 18 months previously or it didn't. What did the word "literally" add to what she was saying? Nothing. To me, and I suspect I'm now in a minority, the word is intended to avoid confusion between metaphor and real events. In metaphor skating on thin ice is behaviour that may result in disaster. Literally skating on thin ice involves putting bladed boots and actually venturing onto a frozen body of water. But if a woman regarded by some as Britain's greatest living writer is correct I may have to literally eat my words. Or not.