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I Like Like

This afternoon my local NPR station had a program devoted to language -- specifically, which words people love and hate. As with most things in this world, the hate:love ratio was skewed heavily in favor of the former. For every person calmly rhapsodizing about the beauty of "loquacious," there were half a dozen Angry Grammarians incensed by "very unique" and railing against "I could care less."

I'm amazed by how worked up people get over this stuff. Yes, I have long disliked the misuse of "literally," dating back to my first day of college when my English 101 professor said the school had so many new student that it was "literally bursting at the seams," but my emotional response pretty much tops out at "slightly annoyed". Some of the folks calling into the program, meanwhile, sounded like they were ready to knife the next person to mix up "imply" and "infer." And nearly all of them claimed that their linguistic pet peeve drove them crazy or drove them nuts. After a while I felt like calling in and saying, "You know what drives me crazy? People who equate the steady deterioration of mental health with a mild irritation over the use of "irregardless."

The usual whipping boy in these lexical bitchfests is the word "like." Everyone lambasts the word as meaningless filler, abused by unintelligible mumblers who can't string together three words without having to stall for time. It's ironic* that a word meaning "affection" gets so little.

Me, I like like. I think it's a great word. And I suspect that those who dismiss it as vacuous are not listening to how it is actually used.

In truth, like has a fairly well-defined a widely understood meaning when used in conversation. It signals that the facts being related are guesswork and hyperbole, or that the dialogue being recounted is a paraphrase at best. It serves as a warning to the listener: Caveat Emptor.

Really, "like" is more than just a word -- it is practically a auxiliary verb that puts the entire statement into a new tense. Call it the "Past Approximate." If someone tells you they once ate fourteen eggs in one sitting, you recognize that is a boast; if someone says they ate, like, fourteen eggs, you know instinctively that the number was probably closer to five.

Critics of "like" point to it's excessive use by youth as proof that every successive generation is getting dumber. The must be used judiciously, to be sure -- I also like the word "callipygian," but wouldn't want to hear it six times in a sentence (well, depends on the sentence, I guess).. But perhaps widespread use of the Present, Past, and Future Approximate tense actually demonstrates the opposite, that kids today are more comfortable with nuance and subtlety than their forefathers, more aware that anything communicated by something as clumsy as speech can only come within spitting distance of reality.

* Send enraged screeds about my inappropriate usage of "ironic" to johnmoe@monkeydisaster.com. Posted on September 05, 2006 to Observations





Comments

It drive's me crazy when people abuse apostrophe's and can't demonstrate that they know the difference between "its" and "it's".

Now, where did I put my pill's?

Grr.

Posted by: Chris on September 6, 2006 10:23 PM

You've changed my mind about the word "like". Thanks for that.

A coworker often says "agreeance" during meetings. Every time I hear him say it I must tune out all else while I check my disgust. I don't usually get so bent about the misuse of language (being more of a spelling nazi, myself) but he has such a tremendously inflated ego that it requires considerable effort on my part to keep from screaming.

Posted by: Robin on September 6, 2006 10:30 PM

I read Language Log, a fantastic blog by a group of linguists. Recently there was an entry linking to a radio interview that Geoff Pullum (one of those linguists) gave. He also talked about 'like', and calls it a hedge-word similar to the phrase 'as it were'.

Here's the Language Log entry:
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003529.html

Posted by: Jaap on September 6, 2006 11:20 PM

I like callipygian women.

Posted by: Friendless on September 7, 2006 12:00 AM

What about when "like" is used in conjunction with hyperbole? There's no nuance to hyperbole. Or is there?

Posted by: Piers on September 7, 2006 12:16 AM

Haha!

When I was in high school, a prescriptive grammarian doctor uncle of mine used to give me and my cousins a hard time about "like". He tried to tell us it had no meaning, because we couldn't define it. I countered by asking him to define "the", which he couldn't. That shut him up, but it didn't really settle the argument, it just proved that he was a better doctor than he was a linguist.

It bugged me for years, actually, and when I took my first linguistics class in college, I ended up writing a paper about it. I outlined the grammatical rules of where it must be located in a sentence, the modifying effect it has on the word or phrase that follows it, and the special-case verb phrase "to be like" (or "to be all") which takes a quotation as its direct object, and serves to convey exactly the sense of approximateness that you describe here.

But I didn't know the word "hyperbole" at the time, which is a pinpoint accurate description for what "like" does to the words that follow it! So I say, rock on with your powers of observation. And don't ever let 'em tell you the children don't talk right. When our grandkids tell each other tall tales, I hope very much that they'll use "like" much as we do. It's a linguistic innovation, and we should be grateful to have it.

Posted by: cassidy on September 7, 2006 12:24 AM

It really is truly freakish the way that so many of the topics that arise in this blog mirror what my mates and I talk about in the pub on a friday night, specially as they seem to arise one or two weeks before they appear here. However, I'm pretty sure we never reach the same level of observational acuteness or indeed sort anything out to the satisfaction of anyone present. I'm fairly sure Matthew isn't spying on us unless he's got a miked up webcam in the Nag's Head pub in Leeds, England. BTW unlike a few of my compatriots I consider the U.S to be a major player in linguistic evolution, so keep up the good work

Posted by: Duncan on September 7, 2006 12:44 AM

I'd similarly like to defend the common use of "ironic" to refer to something unfortunate, unexpected, apparently paradoxical, inevitably bad, etc. The base meaning of irony is not, I think, sarcasm, or saying something with dry, mocking, humour, but rather the sense in which one uses "dramatic irony": an event or speech that changes its significance because of information available to the reader (or in retrospect) that is not available to the characters.

So if a character says, "You're killing me!" to a friend who's telling him a joke, when we know that the friend is also poisoning him, that's ironic. If a man drives across three states because he's afraid of the danger of flying, but gets killed in an automobile accident, that's ironic (because we all know driving is statistically more dangerous than flying). When Oedipus leaves Corinth because an oracle has told him that he will kill his father and sleep with his mother, and as a result kills his birth father and sleeps with his birth mother who unbeknownst to him are in Thebes, that's ironic, because the god of the oracle knew they were his real parents and it was trying to avoid his fate that caused it.

From here it's a very easy connection, in common parlance, to use "ironic" for any similarly unfortunate scenario, especially where there is a sense that if there were an overseeing divine power causing it, they must have a cruel sense of humour. So if a 98 year-old man wins the lottery and dies the very next day, we call that ironic. And if you meet someone called Ed who has a huge head (in London at least the 'h' of 'head' is silent), or someone called Herb who smokes a lot of weed, say, that's kind of ironic. (Though maybe not as ironic as someone called Small who is 6' 8" tall.) And if a word that means affection is the object of so much scorn and criticism, that's ironic too.

Funnily enough, the linguistic prescriptivists who try to stop us using "irony" in this sense are the ones who have forgotten the dominant original sense of the word. Isn't that ironic?

Don't you think?

Posted by: Johann on September 7, 2006 1:11 AM

I love the idea of "like" as a 'caveat emptor' warning.

My theory is that it's a linguistic version the tiny little "advertising feature" and "paid advertisement" banners they put on advertorials in newspapers— a disclaimer that this is not fact, but an opportunity for a company/person to have their say.

(This is possibly the effect of years of TV ads, playing in our subconscious: we now advertise ourselves!)

But I think your theory is more logical, and certainly better thought-out. I'll certainly be sending this to a few of my old English/Journalism professors.

By the way, I'm normally a lurker and I just wanted to say thanks for many hours of entertainment on your site.

Posted by: clementine on September 7, 2006 1:13 AM

Hearing "impact" used as a verb instead of "to have an impact" formerly made me insane, until it was in a car ad with voice-over by the magificently toned Liev Schreiber. Just reading a grocery list he could make a girl...weep.

An article on "Like: The Discourse Particle" from the Journal of Semantics you might enjoy. She listened to interviews of highschool classmates taped by her own daughter for research. http://jos.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/19/1/35

Ditto clementine's comment: longtime lurker & avid fan. Thanks for all of it.

Posted by: Simone on September 7, 2006 2:18 AM

Hearing "impact" used as a verb instead of "to have an impact" formerly made me insane, until it was in a car ad with voice-over by the magificently toned Liev Schreiber. Just reading a grocery list he could make a girl...weep.

An article on "Like: The Discourse Particle" from the Journal of Semantics you might enjoy. She listened to interviews of highschool classmates taped by her own daughter for research. http://jos.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/19/1/35

Ditto clementine's comment: longtime lurker & avid fan. Thanks for all of it.

[I got an error message when I first tried to post this, so it may show up twice.]

Posted by: Simone on September 7, 2006 2:20 AM

Duncan: The Colonies do not believe in linguistic evolution. We believe in linguistic intelligent design.

Posted by: Davey on September 7, 2006 3:41 AM

Aaaack! Grammar snobs!

Posted by: christian on September 7, 2006 4:22 AM

I adore when people sign off letters and say goodbye using the phrase "Cheers!" Of course it would lose the charm if I lived in London and every bugger said it in place of the Americanized versions: "Take it easy" and "Have a good one."

Because "Cheers!" both sounds vaguely formal (as in a wedding toast) and less formal (as in "Let's get toasted!") I feel almost as if I get to make the call as a listener.

Also, "It was great talking to you." This phrase has declined in usage so I only use it when I *literally* mean it--often for a friend whom I haven't chatted with in months or longer.

Anyway, cheers!

Posted by: Shawn on September 7, 2006 4:24 AM

Robin said: "A coworker often says "agreeance" during meetings. Every time I hear him say it I must tune out all else while I check my disgust. I don't usually get so bent about the misuse of language (being more of a spelling nazi, myself) but he has such a tremendously inflated ego that it requires considerable effort on my part to keep from screaming."

Does anyone else in the office know that agreeance isn't a word? Because if everyone knew but him . . . funny stuff.

I love it when someone who's an arrogant bastard uses words that don't exist. Especially when they do it with authority and passion. Be careful though, my boss often uses words that we don't think exist and we'll sit down after the meeting and look them up because they sound like he made them up. Not once have I failed to find the word in the dictionary. (coincidentally, he's not an arrogant bastard either, fyi).

Posted by: John on September 7, 2006 4:47 AM

Well, do be careful correcting or mocking your colleague for the use of 'agreeance'. I have no doubt that he uses it in ignorance, but with just a bit of quick web hunting he could come up with enough evidence to counter that the word has been in the English language for hundreds of years (just obsolete since 1714 or so...)

See http://archive.unearthed.com/?news,2003,03,0000015251

Posted by: Johann on September 7, 2006 5:34 AM

My big one is "Nauseate" vs "Nauseous." Other than that, I don't get terribly twictchy when people mis-use words.

Posted by: SRH on September 7, 2006 6:33 AM

i like, totally like this post.

Posted by: geeky on September 7, 2006 6:55 AM

Longtime lurker, second time caller...and I loves me some dy.

At the risk of starting a whole *thing*, I am wondering about "untracked" and whether it makes sense/ is proper / should be shouted about.

T.V. sports announcers will often opine about a struggling athlete to the effect that he needs to "get untracked". I would have thought that what was meant to be conveyed was that the player needed to get "on track", in the manner of a traveller seeking a destination, rather than being removed from a track. Any thoughts?

Posted by: junior on September 7, 2006 6:56 AM

I have a boss who misuses the word "literally," like, literally 5 times in 6 sentences. (I counted.) That boss is also an abuser of phrases like, "It's a no-brainer," and, "It's not even a question."

But I'm less annoyed by that, than having a boss at all. In fact, I'm kind of happy about the malaprops. While the boss is driving around in a car that literally cost as much as my house, at least I know a little bit about grammar. Ha!

Posted by: Jeremy Hornik on September 7, 2006 7:07 AM

I once attended a team building/motivational-type presentation in which the lecturer pointed out various things that people say in everyday conversation that are “wrong.” However, most of them seemed to be his own pet peeves and not technically wrong. For example, he detested people who say “I enjoyed myself” when leaving a party. His argument is that you should enjoy the company or enjoy the party, but to say you “enjoyed yourself” implies that the only thing you found agreeable at the party was yourself.

To me, “I enjoyed myself” seems to be more of an idiom than a literal statement. Much like if I said, “Can you help me out?” I wouldn’t expect you to pick me up and chuck me out the door.

Posted by: Craig on September 7, 2006 7:40 AM

There was an interesting podcast on Slate some time ago about how the misuse of 'literally' is a bit of humbug, citing many authors of the English canon who used it in precisely the manner that drives some people nuts. The author was Jesse Sheidlower, who I believe is an editor of the OED. I found it, in print, here: http://www.slate.com/id/2129105/

Another good website on 'errors' in usage is: http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html

Finally, I agree with the person on 'untracked'... That drives me, like, nuts.

Posted by: Jim in Missoula on September 7, 2006 7:48 AM

The most recent explanation I have heard for the modern usage of the word "like" is that it serves as a way of abbreviating "As if it were so." And as "like" and "as" often can swap for one another ("Hard as a rock; Hard like a rock"), this is acceptable to me--and I consider myself a old-fashioned grammar prescriptivist.

Posted by: Matt on September 7, 2006 8:17 AM

I had a physics prof way back when who was perpetually enraged by people's misuse of momentum when they really mean inertia. Especially when it came to sportscasters. Yeah, try explaining to John Madden the difference between the two.

Posted by: HDC on September 7, 2006 8:56 AM

Like is important. It means something different than "said". When I say:
--He was all like "I don't THINK so!"--
"like" shows that I am about to do a sort of imitation of HOW he said it. "Like" has emotion and intonation attached.

Am I making sense? This would be easier on a podcast to explain.

Posted by: Ice Queen on September 7, 2006 8:57 AM

"Reference" - I hate the use of this word as a verb, and I worked in a technical writing environment for a while where it was used constantly. "Reference" is a noun, you "refer to" something.

I agree with Ice Queen's observation that "like" frequently indicates a reenactment; however, I have heard teens hold coversations in which it seems that every third word is "like".

Oh, and can I have a judge's verdict on this one: is "funnily" a word or not?

Posted by: SMurph on September 7, 2006 9:21 AM

"Like is important. It means something different than "said". When I say:
--He was all like "I don't THINK so!"--"

You just had to throw that "all" in there, didn't you? That's going to require another round of heated debate. :-)

Posted by: Erik on September 7, 2006 9:26 AM

If you edited other people's barely literate writing for a living, grammatical and spelling errors might drive you round the twist, too.

Posted by: sasha on September 7, 2006 9:38 AM

The one the bugs me is "I mean". I've noticed NPR reporters using that one a lot lately. Sometimes they use it so much that eventually that's all I hear and most of the time they aren't even using it to clarify a point. I mean it's like distracting.

Posted by: Steve on September 7, 2006 9:38 AM

A gold star goes to Johann for the "irony" comment. The word's misuse seems to be the grammar snob's most often heard battle cry.

Don't really have anything to add on top of what's already been said, except that I bought a used gratuitous transfers book this semester and someone had scribbled "callipygian: having shapely buttocks. See Uncle John's Bathroom Reader." in the margin on page 71.

Posted by: Garvey on September 7, 2006 9:40 AM

It's interesting that when asked for words people like, they choose interesting or euphonious actual words (I like callipygian, too--and I *am*), but when asked for words they hate, they mention things used incorrectly. Very different.

Now, a word that I hate, that makes me cringe every time I hear it, is "panties." I can't explain it, it's just what it is. I got creeped out just typing it. I have a friend who is likewise squeeged by the words "moist" and "loaf."

But if asked, on the other hand, for my ultimate pet peeve...that would have to be the incorrect use of the apostrophe (sorry, Matthew, cause I know you do it all the time!). It's not just the "its/it's" problem, it's the "apostrophe as plural" epidemic, which seems to be spreading among every greengrocer in America. "Tomato's 2/$1" -- I'm sorry, but that's just WRONG. And I see it everywhere.

The most egregious example of this is a store in my neighborhood that sells Italian sandwiches and wraps and has on its (its!) canopy the following term, among others: panini's. I mean, c'mon! Let's go down the list! Panini is already plural, fer chrissakes! And then you go adding the "'s"? Are you doing it just to torment me?

Sorry. I'm OK now. Well. maybe just give me another minute.

Posted by: Karen on September 7, 2006 9:50 AM

One thing that really bothers me is people who apply rules of Edited Standard English to informal communications.

Who cares if the teenagers on the bus next to me use "like", like, all the time? Who has time to correct all the incorrect apostrophe usage on Teh Internets?

If they use "like" in their classes, yes, the teacher should correct them--that's part of what they are in school to learn. Incorrect apostrophes in their English homework? Nail 'em! With glee and vigor, even!

Use formal speech in situtations that require formal speech. In situations that don't, man, like, chill, m'kay?

So I don't get freaked out when kids use "like" all the time, as long as they know when and where not to use it. Now, when the president can't string together three coherent sentences in the SoTU address, yeah, that kinda freaks me out.

Posted by: Dorothy on September 7, 2006 10:31 AM

Word.

Posted by: cassidy on September 7, 2006 10:51 AM

I tell y'all, their ain't no word that bother me more than "like". Dont' use that word, yo! It makes you sound all unedumacated.

(Sadly, my real grammar isn't much better than my jokey fake grammar)

Posted by: marie antoinette on September 7, 2006 11:14 AM

Like, I don't mind it when "like" is used as, like, a modifier, but, like, when it like, appears as like, every other word in a sentence I think it like, goes well beyond enhancement and, like, makes the speaker sound like they're unable to like, form a single coherent sentence.

I disagree with Dorothy's argument that there's no need for kids to learn to speak properly, even in informal situations. If they become comfortable with poor speech patterns, they'll have more trouble remembering to speak properly when the situation calls for it (especially in situations where they're nervous, such as job interviews).

And why not go to the trouble of correcting grammar and spelling in Internet posts? You wouldn't issue a press release or advertising copy that was misspelled; why be less careful with any other sort of writing?

Posted by: Cobwebs on September 7, 2006 11:30 AM

Like, the problem for me with with "like" is like how often if gets used by some people, like you know? Oh, that reminds me, like, I have a bigger problem with "you know", you know? Well, like, do you?

And don't get me started on "begs the question" (as opposed to "raises the question"). That's my grammatical pet peeve. I realize it's fairly stupid, and I'm in no position to judge others, but I can't help but cringe when I hear it misused.

Posted by: Nathan Beeler on September 7, 2006 11:30 AM

I think I missed the day when grammar was taught in class. I still have a tough time with the parts of speech too... which would have been extraordinarily nice to know while learning French. Oh well. I hobble along somehow.

Also, I just figured out the true meaning of "begs the question" last week... it makes me wonder, when everyone is using a phrase incorrectly, is it still incorrect?

Posted by: Rob Cockerham on September 7, 2006 11:53 AM

I try to hide my maniacal hatred for misusers of apostrophes from the rest of the world, but sometimes I fail. Like the other night in a parking lot; we started pulling into a space beside a van with a company logo on it: "2 Brother's Painting."
I yelped in pained surprise - a company logo! The thing you display to the world! Apostrophe! Agh! - causing the husband to stand on the brakes because he thought he was going to hit the van.
Sigh.
Also, you may find this interesting; I am not the Melanie who writes this article.

http://blogs.officezealot.com/spiller/archive/2006/02/14/9226.aspx

Posted by: Melanie on September 7, 2006 11:54 AM

There was an interesting podcast on Slate some time ago about how the misuse of 'literally' is a bit of humbug, citing many authors of the English canon who used it in precisely the manner that drives some people nuts. The author was Jesse Sheidlower, who I believe is an editor of the OED. I found it, in print, here: http://www.slate.com/id/2129105/

Another good website on 'errors' in usage is: http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html

Finally, I agree with the person on 'untracked'... That drives me, like, nuts.

Posted by: Jim in Missoula on September 7, 2006 12:20 PM

There was an interesting podcast on Slate some time ago about how the misuse of 'literally' is a bit of humbug, citing many authors of the English canon who used it in precisely the manner that drives some people nuts. The author was Jesse Sheidlower, who I believe is an editor of the OED. I found it, in print, here.

Another good website on 'errors' in usage is: here.

Finally, I agree with the person on 'untracked'... That drives me, like, nuts.

Posted by: Jim in Missoula on September 7, 2006 12:22 PM

You can use like to show someone's physical description or movements, too. "He was like [makes a face] when he ate the eggplant." It [be like] can be, but is not necessarily, an exaggeration, and is an extension of 'said'.

It can be annoyingly overused, but so can any word. Since teenagers have been annoyingly overusing it for 20 years while adults seem to grow out of it, some arguments can be made for it having a metalinguistic use -- getting the adults to leave them alone by irritating them to death.

Posted by: wolfa on September 7, 2006 12:22 PM

What bothers me is people who are bothered by words like 'untracked' and 'agreeance'. The beautiful thing about English is that taking a prefix or suffix and adding one to a root creates the intended meaning of what one wishes to say (without stammering and/or causing a delay in conversation just so as to be fecking proper). To say that such on-the-fly words are not words is disgraceful narrowmindedness and openly displays the offended's uptightness. I say a pox on thy word police. Get a life and chill out some, eh!

Posted by: joer on September 7, 2006 1:16 PM

@ Melanie: I presume you don't buy from Lands' End! The apostrophe in their name got moved through a printer's error, and they never bothered to correct it...for decades!

Posted by: Gen on September 7, 2006 1:24 PM

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that the 'agreeance" thing is no reason to be upset. Its not the word itself that bothers me so, its the source. The word is only a trigger.
Its kind of like, when President Bush speaks, I hate every word that comes out of his mouth, real words and incoherent words alike, but when my little children speak, I can't help grinning.

Posted by: Robin on September 7, 2006 3:53 PM

Finally! Validation! Karen, I cringe at the word "panties" too!

Posted by: MB on September 7, 2006 6:57 PM

"Callipygian" isn't hard to hear six times in a sentence if it's about famously callipygian actress Jennifer Lopez or callipygian singer Christina Aguilera, who resemble the not-so-ironically callipygian statue Venus Kallipygos, but it's harder to hear "callipygian" in the context of, say, the callipygian Queen Mother.

Posted by: Scott Hardie on September 7, 2006 8:45 PM

One tic I really can't stand is "go ahead and..", as in "why don't you go ahead and book that flight" or "everyone go ahead and get out their books". How completely redundant! I once even heard someone saying "Y'all can go ahead and go ahead of me". Touché.

Posted by: Alana on September 7, 2006 9:24 PM

Karen and MB, at last I can come out of the closet! The word "panties" has always made me uncomfortable too. It's just sort of creepy.

When my daughter was younger, the word "debris" just made her shudder. Go figure.

Posted by: Mom on September 7, 2006 9:45 PM

A couple things that put my teeth on edge:

"Kind of unique" -- we have lots of words that mean "special" but only one which means "one-of-a-kind." Let's not water that one down by using it to mean something else.

"Service" as a verb. There's a perfectly good verb ("serve") -- servicing is what a bull does to a cow and what a hooker does to her John. Is that _really_ what we want to do to our customer?

"Try and" instead of "try to." You're going to try and come to the party? Both try and come? I'm usually only willing to commit to trying, but if you can commit to both, well, that's great.


Things that make me very happy:

The words "callipygian" and "fornicate" because they're fun to say and the meanings are fun too.

Posted by: Boofus McGoofus on September 7, 2006 10:20 PM

My least favorite word is the word moist. The sound of this word and the images it conjures quite literally sends shivers up my spine. And not the good kind.

Posted by: Emily H. on September 7, 2006 10:53 PM

A reply to Karen, MB, Mom (!?), Emily H:
A bunch of my friends decided a year or two ago that the words 'Moist', 'Used', 'Cream' and 'Panties' are the four most dirty/disturbing words in the English language, especially when combined. Apparently this is more common than I had thought.

Posted by: stringman on September 8, 2006 12:16 AM

Someone I knew many years ago (I am *not* going to say "a friend") decided one night at a student party to perform and impromptu survey of which words were most likely to offend women. Not by asking them, but by going up to strange women and just saying the words in a sleazy voice. "Moist" was by far the most offensiv word according to his survey.

Posted by: Johann on September 8, 2006 2:27 AM

My favorite little grammar related thingy floating around the net is that video on the many various usages of the word F_ _K.

Think I'll go watch it right now...

Posted by: Redneck Health on September 8, 2006 8:18 AM

I've always been bothered by the misuse of WHO vs WHOM, but it was not until recently that I actually learned how to use them correctly myself. I'm not sure of the best way to phrase this, but I'll try:

If the answer is HIM, use WHOM.
If the answer is HE, use WHO.

With WHOM are you going? (I'm going with HIM.)
WHO is that big jerk? (He is a big jerk)

Posted by: zeekster on September 8, 2006 8:22 AM

"I'm sorry but..."
people who start a sentence with this ARE NOT REALLY SORRY. They just want you to shut up.

If you ever read videogame reviews you will see the constant misuse of loose for lose. I am embarrassed to say that I have said that this 'literally drives me crazy' and I actually am not crazy, it still really does bug me.

"avoid the enemy laser fire or you will loose your life!"
come on now.

also 'funnily' does NOT sound like a real word. I have checked and it is, but really it certainly sounds made up!
funnily?

Posted by: darkpony on September 8, 2006 8:48 AM

I know someone that uses "boughten" as you would use "purchased".

"The car I wanted was already boughten".

It drives me nuts!

Posted by: Punky Brewster on September 8, 2006 9:08 AM

Sure, grammarbots like us often forget to stop and savour the loveliness of words. It's true. Murmur. Fava. Plum. Ooh, how about abattoir? Language is beautiful, even when it's being mangled by ham-fisted imbeciles who are all, like, 'our vision statement has very uniquely impacted the performance outcomes of the abattoir's human resource department in the first quarter.' God bless the corporate verbifier and his gift for putting beige slacks on every noun that used to be fun.

Posted by: lisa on September 8, 2006 9:51 AM

Live and, like, let live, is what I always say.

Posted by: n.b. on September 8, 2006 10:19 AM

I say grammar is high brow and very much a class system. I remember watching a show on the evolution of speech and the slaves who were not allowed to be taught english. They had picked up different words and integrated the words into their own language without understanding modifiers and what not. To a formal english speaking person it sounded like gibberish but in actuality it was a highly evolved version of speech(in retrospect). I personally think if the point is getting across then a big FU to the person that gets offended if it is not "proper". For example if I say "gooder" we can all understand its meaning to be better then plain old "good". So here is your litmus test, "Gooder", did you cringe? If you did, "I pity da fool"

Posted by: e.thermal on September 8, 2006 11:57 AM

Boofus, have you ever heard people in the mainstream media use "very unique"? I have.

Posted by: Andrew on September 8, 2006 2:14 PM

I find it ironic that literally is often used rather unliterally. :)

But I accept that such unliteral usage of literally is common enough to not be wrong.

Such usage does often amuse me, though.

Posted by: Ellen on September 8, 2006 5:14 PM

Modern, proper, language is the slang of yesteryear.

---

Although, I am guilty of getting ticked off when people slaughter grammar and spelling. Anytime I read a paper written by one of my friends, I have to take a pencil and proofread it.

Posted by: Guy Diddley on September 8, 2006 8:42 PM

When I arrived in Canada during junior high school, "like" was the biggest change in my understanding of English.

I no longer tell a conversation with, "..And he said..." Instead it was, "..And he was like..."

The difference is that with "like", you are not just telling what was said but giving an "action replay" so the audience can _experience_ your funny story. That's communication at a higher level.

"Like" separates itself from words like "dude", a purely decorative word that I could never master. I always forget to use it. Sometimes I tack it on with a delay at the end of my sentence. It's unatural. dude.

Posted by: Spacebunny on September 9, 2006 5:09 PM

Cobwebs writes: I disagree with Dorothy's argument that there's no need for kids to learn to speak properly, even in informal situations. If they become comfortable with poor speech patterns, they'll have more trouble remembering to speak properly when the situation calls for it (especially in situations where they're nervous, such as job interviews).

There's something circular about this logic. Are you saying that young people should be made uncomfortable at all times, instead of just during job interviews? ;-)

And to clarify: I think Dorothy's point was that kids should be expected to speak properly in formal situations, but it's silly to expect them to do so in informal situations. Same goes for adults, I'd say. Informality breeds closeness and creativity. I'd hate to be forced to speak formally all the time. Can you imagine how dull that would be?

Posted by: Cassidy on September 9, 2006 10:12 PM

I appreciate this post and the discussion- glad I stumbled by.

I've always been deeply disturbed that Alannis Morrisette's Ironic song has not a whiff of irony in the lyrics. Is that the grand irony of it all?

And, boy, will I never think about Moist in the same way again- my mind is officially sullied after reading these comments. I always thought of Moist in cooking terms. Like moist brownies, I like.

Posted by: KC on September 10, 2006 9:46 AM

I saw someone posted a link to an academic article on like up above. Here's another more recent one from last year:

So who? Like how? Just what?: Discourse markers in the conversations of Young Canadians
Journal of Pragmatics, Vol. 37, No. 11. (November 2005), pp. 1896-1915.
by Tagliamonte, Sali

Posted by: Cheyenne on September 10, 2006 7:11 PM

WE spent 20 years or more educating ourselves. The least we can do is perfect our grammar and use the english language properly.

Posted by: ca78 on September 13, 2006 12:58 AM

It seems to me it's rather arrogant to view one form of English as more proper than another.

In a certain situation, a certain form of English is more fitting. But that's specific to your situation. Speak and right so the particular audience you are speaking or writing to understands.

Posted by: Ellen on September 13, 2006 3:13 PM

The Irony Police are some of the most dreadfully boring people on earth. A description of the varieties of dust would be more exciting than hearing someone air their grievances on the misuse of the term.

Also, the Is Police need to jump off a cliff. You know, the people who read something and circle or get riled up every time they come across a conjugation of the verb "to be."

People who say "I could care less" when they mean the opposite need to get it right. If you were extremely pissed off at someone and wanted to say "Fuck You!" would you accept "Make Love to Me!" as close enough? I understand that the percussiveness of two hard "c" sounds followed by the "air"-ing out of one's disgust is satisfying to say, but read the previous sentence again. It's sloppy and lazy. (Oh! The Is Police are coming to get me! Let's completely ignore its directness and be dismayed by the lack of Action!)

Like: people today (yes, I'm enjoying this bit of generalizing :-) can't be bothered to figure out what something truly is, so they settle a series of similes, for some vague "like"-nesses. It is a lack of precision in both thought and language. It is also used to soften one's tone. So we have become vague and meek. Great. My favorite is when someone tries to describe something and says, "It's like, huuhh, you know?!" where "huuhh" is a somewhat exasperated sigh. Wow! Couldn't have said it better myself lobotomized and on quaaludes!

Someone at work can't stop himself from saying "actually" when he's explaining something. As he fumbles for words, he drops "actually" into EVERY PHRASE! Sometimes a couple of times per phrase. If it doesn't drive you crazy, it's fookin' hilarious!

I like to drop "irregardless" into conversation on purpose for entertainment's sake. You know, on maybe a biennial basis.

Hmm, how about the phrase "she is bodaciously callipygian"?

Karen, what's the singular of panini?

MB and Karen,
Panties, panties, panties - WHOO-HOO! Panties!

Posted by: mroberts on September 14, 2006 12:57 PM

What is a coworker and how does one ork a cow? Indeed what is this orking all about? If I knew, I could organise a national cow orking championship or something. Or are people talking about co-workers (or even an old fashioned notion like 'colleagues')?

Posted by: George on September 20, 2006 5:14 AM

What bugs me most is "you know".

Like, you know, I'm not sure what to get Kyle for his birthday. Because, you know, I just don't know what he wants. But, you know, I want to get him something.

About a month ago a guy being interviewed on tv used "you know" in almost every sentence. Drove me nuts, but not as much as people smacking gum.

Posted by: Jan on September 20, 2006 2:20 PM

How about when you're waiting in line at the burger joint or bank or, like, whatever, and the cashier says, "Can I help who's next?" and I have to think, "No, we all lined up here pretty much without any help on your part. You just talk to the person who happens to be at the front of the line." Like that, y'know? Just all, like, "ironic" and stuff! But not out loud or you lose your turn.
Please notice that the offending subject did properly utilize the contraction for 'who is', and not 'whose': this is fortunate for everyone because it puts the apostrophe in its (it's?) proper place for once.

Posted by: Spot on September 20, 2006 9:22 PM