OK, let’s get something straight: This (above), is “reaching out.” You do not see a cellphone or Blackberry in the hand of either God (R) or Adam (L). Although it can be argued that God and Adam aren’t “reaching” because neither appears to be aiming for a physical grasp, that’s small potatoes when one examines what’s become of “reaching out” (and its close friend, “literally”) in the second millennium.
Take, for example, the tender cradling of the phrase by an unnamed (but nameable) CNN reporter, who claims that he has “reached out” to a politician who’s said something monumentally stupid about global positioning. What this signifies, in fact, is that the reporter set out to nail the guy by texting him at 3 A.M. and, receiving no reply by 3:01 A.M., is comfortable reporting that there’s been no reach back. (I hasten to add that even in the absence of a reply, the reporter hasn’t literally nailed the fellow. There are plenty of pictures in the Vatican that illuminate the observation.)
Which brings us to “literally.” Unlike God, who strains so many muscles to reach out to Adam that he needs ten or eleven angels to spot him, the reporter moves one digit an inch or two up, down, left and right to accomplish his so-called reach out. Nevertheless, in his on-air report , he claims that he “literally” reached out to the sleeping Neanderthal, rather than accepting the slack I’ve graciously accorded him and moving on to a reach out to Stephen Hawking.
In sum, I submit that the growing abuse of “reaching out” and “literally” warrant what might be referred to in certain societies as “re-education,” perhaps in the form of negative reinforcement. Thus, when some reporter, politician or press secretary strays from acceptable usage, a finger might descend from the clouds, reach out to him, touch his finger, and turn him into a manatee.