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I'm trying to write a sentence which is supposed to mean that something is being done at the last moment.

Sentence - The endleofan gathering was called, when something threatened the very existence of humanity, as an act of last resort, quite literally at the eleventh hour.

While reading this, it appears that I'm saying that the meeting is occuring at 11 O'clock and not what I intend it to say - "at the last moment when no other options are left".

Is there any way I can make the sentence more clearer, to convey the intended meaning? Feel free to modify the sentence.

  • How about "almost literally"? – Hot Licks Jan 15 '18 at 19:05
  • @HotLicks: "The endleofan gathering was called, when something threatened the very existence of humanity, as an act of last resort, almost literally at the eleventh hour." - that somehow feels even more weird...or is it just me ? – user96551 Jan 15 '18 at 19:07
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    Why did you write "quite literally" if you didn't want the literal meaning? Why not just remove the words "quite literally"? – Laurel Jan 15 '18 at 19:13
  • @Laurel: endleofan is old english for eleven...so it is supposed to point that the name literally means that it is at the eleventh hour... – user96551 Jan 15 '18 at 19:41
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    The aptly named endleofan gathering was called when something threatened the very existence of humanity, as an act of last resort – at the eleventh hour. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 15 '18 at 21:56
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You shouldn't use "literally" for emphasis. You literally shouldn't use literally for emphasis.

Of course, most dictionaries say it's a thing that can happen now. For instance:

1 : in a literal sense or manner
2 : in effect [. . .] used in an exaggerated way to emphasize a statement or description that is not literally true or possible

(Merriam-Webster)

That second definition fits what you're trying to do with that eleventh-hour bit. But in practice, that second definition really means "figuratively"

a : expressing one thing in terms normally denoting another with which it may be regarded as analogous

(Merriam-Webster)

. . . which is really what you're trying to do with your eleventh-hour. "Eleventh-hour" is analogous to "the point when time is about to run out". It is "in effect" that point in time. But not "literally" that point in time.

Since "figuratively" is (literally!) an antonym of "literally", it rubs a lot of folks the wrong way when you use one when you mean the other.

If it were up to me, I'd just cut the "literally" part altogether. And then maybe switch up the words a little bit for readability.

The endleofan gathering was called as an act of last resort when something threatened the very existence of humanity.

. . . or perhaps:

As an act of last resort, the endleofan gathering was called when something threatened the very existence of humanity.

. . . or whatever. It all depends upon what idea you want to emphasize the most in the sentence. In any event, the main bullet point here is that I think "an act of last resort" conveys the idea well enough by itself.

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    This is not the emphasiser role of 'literally'. It's the 'using the language with its precise primary meaning' sense. The snag is that the one-to-one correspondence is here between 'endleofan ' and 'at the eleventh hour', not between 'at the eleventh hour' and the perilous time referred to. And this is confusing. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 16 '18 at 22:19
  • @EdwinAshworth Ha! Fair enough. It certainly confused me. – EightyEighty Jan 17 '18 at 18:50

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