The protests seem to be most severe when the written language uses an unfamiliar script. A sort of visceral panic seems to set in. But really, what difference does could it possibly have made what the shirt said? The people who complained, of course, are simply frighted fools, and I suppose they are unavoidable these days, given the political climate. But for security officials insist that this gentleman remove his shirt--that is simply outrageous. Are they just as stupid, or do they simply pandering to the paradoid whims of any xenophobic nutjob? Pray tell, how does changing a shirt mitigate any supposed security threat?
The usage I mean is most familiar in contexts such as
"I skipped breakfast and lunch, so by dinner I was literally starving to death."
Usage books object to this construction on the grounds that the speaker here is certainly not actually starving. But it's easy to see such constructions as simple hyperbole, which of course speakers deploy all the time.
The question is whether the speaker intends the expression as exaggeration or has actually reanalyzed the word's meaning, thinking that literal means figurative. In sentences such as the one above, it's not really possible to tell, since either reanalysis or exaggeration could explain the sentence. Indeed, a simple substitution of "virtually" or "metaphorically" in the sentence above actually weakens the intended emphasis, so even if reanalysis has occurred, a sense of exaggeration remains.
Within a blog entry on the Duke Lacrosse scandal, I found this gem: