Grammar Wednesday

I was at Local U., walking in front of a college student on my way back to my car the other day and listening to her talk to someone on the phone.

“So, David was like “where do you want to go?” and I was like, “I don’t know.  I DON’T want to go to Lisa’s” and he was like “Why?” and I was like “I don’t know; she’s just been bothering me lately.”  I mean, it’s not like I don’t like her or anything, it’s just, like, annoying lately, you know?”

I’m finding that I’m hearing people using the word “like” in a lot of inappropriate (and profoundly annoying) ways lately, and I’m trying to be mindful of my own speech to be certain that it’s not a habit I’m picking up unknowingly.  I’ve noticed that Beanie’s started in with it, too, and I’m trying to gently call her attention to it.

Where do you think this new use of the word “like” comes from?

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14 Comments

Filed under bad grammar, concerns, Grammar, out in the real world, popular culture, self-analysis, speaking

14 responses to “Grammar Wednesday

  1. The use of “like” as a breath in regular speech has been prevalent here for nearly 20 years. Is it just starting up there? I KNOW I’ve picked it up, and when I catch myself doing it, I mock myself with the valley girl accent.

  2. I don’t think it’s just starting here, Seester, but I’m noticing it a LOT more lately, especially since Bean started using it (and I drop into Valley Girl to mock it, too – how funny is that?!).

  3. Melissa

    One theory I have is that the overuse of “like” comes in part from a rush to fill in words without pausing the flow of the sentence, as if letting the listener know you’re still talking and not done yet. Instead of the placeholders “uh” or “um,” people use “like” now to fill in gaps and keep the impatience of the listener in check with the reassurance that something else is coming.

    However, the usage you noted here is where I hear it being used most and where I catch myself using it most — to replace “said” when relaying dialogue in a story. When “like” is being used this way, I find people are often using nonverbal expressions (gestures, body language) as well as their voice to imitate the quoted speaker and their attitude. I suspect that this one is mostly learned, too, since it’s spread through popular culture and is no doubt ubiquitous on TV.

  4. I think kids hear other, probably slightly older, kids doing it and unconsciously pick it up. My dad would gently tease me and my sister when we started using “like,” which turned out to be an excellent way to keep it from taking over. The people who say it incessantly don’t really realize they’re doing it and don’t hear it.

  5. I’ve actually seen kids regulate other kids by doing the same thing (though not as nicely) if their use of “like” gets really out of control, particularly during class presentations.

  6. The curse of the Valley Girl!

  7. kizzbeth

    I blame Nicholas Cage.

  8. I, like TOTALLY said “like” all the time when I was in, like, 7th grade in 1982.

    However, I ceased that practice by the time I entered college, and am appalled by those whose language “fails to grow up.” Gah!

  9. It is absolutely annoying. It’s as if they are acting out the dialogue and playing all the parts of the script. Words like said, asked, etc. would require them to use adjectives and adverbs. They just can’t be bothered.

  10. Can we blame California valley girls? Like, not everything out of California is, like, cool!

  11. I think that “like” is a way of stalling during speech. We hear it often, unconsciously internalize it, and spew it back out again. When I was in middle school I got up to make a speech at my great grandmother’s 100th birthday. I was proud of myself because I though it was so profound. When I watched the tape back, I realized that I said “like” about 400 times. I was so embarrassed that I have been mindful ever since.

  12. Like, gag me with a spoon, this is so Val, ya know?

  13. I’m not sure where in the country you live, but it was in Texas at least 12-15 years ago, back when I was just starting high school.

  14. It’s called quotative “like” and it’s about 25 years old
    http://www.pbs.org/speak/ahead/change/change/summary/

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