"Like" abuse redivivus

Dennis Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Sun Apr 13 15:54:57 UTC 2008

This extraction is very interesting. When we did our MSU study we
inserted "like" into every possible slot in a fairly simple sentence
("My friend was in my room the other night") and found that native
speakers of focus "like" (no quotatives here of course) preferred it
at major constituent boundaries, but hated it at the end.
Interestingly, they didn't really care for any of them, in spite of
the fact that they were asked to judge them from their own usage
rather than any prescriptive norms, but they couldn't shake the
stigma. An undergrad class that did the collecting was amazed and
said that their friends (many of whom they collected from) were liars.

Looks like all that pissing and moaning about inarticulateness is
having some influence, at least overtly on attitude if not on usage.


>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
>Subject:      Re: "Like" abuse redivivus
>As usual, the reality is worse than one would have thought....
>   JL
>Neal Whitman <nwhitman at AMERITECH.NET> wrote:
>   ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender: American Dialect Society
>Poster: Neal Whitman
>Subject: Re: "Like" abuse redivivus
>Alex D'Arcy has done some really interesting work on 'like', both the
>discourse-marker variety and the 'be like' variety. Her dissertation
>shows discourse-marker 'like' steadily expanding its range of syntactic
>categories it can attach to, generation by generation. Check the rest of her
>CV for other material on 'like'.
>An interesting change in the syntax of both 'like' and 'be like' that I've
>noticed in my own kids is that they can extract the material following it.
>That is, they can say things such as, "I was like, just about to win, is
>what I was like,' and "He was like, 'Why'd you do that?' That's what he was
>like, Daddy." More on that here:
>Neal Whitman
>Email: nwhitman at ameritech.net
>Blog: http://literalminded.wordpress.com
>Webpage: http://literalmindedlinguistics.com
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Jonathan Lighter"
>Sent: Saturday, April 12, 2008 10:33 AM
>Subject: "Like" abuse redivivus
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail
>>  header -----------------------
>>  Sender: American Dialect Society
>>  Poster: Jonathan Lighter
>>  Subject: "Like" abuse redivivus
>>  Actually, it's never been gone, but thirty years ago "like" abuse was a
>>  big deal among the "Death of English" crowd. Recent developments in global
>>  warming and so forth have rather shunted it from notice.
>>  On campus yesterday I heard a young university woman explaining
>>  excitedly, "So, like, it was like I was like that's _impossible_! And,
>>  like, she was like 'No! It isn't!' Like, then I was like it still sounds
>>  kind of crazy like."
>>  Admittedly this is not an exact transcription, but I promise you it comes
>>  very close. She certainly used "like" more densely (no pun intended) than
>>  any other speaker I've ever heard.
>>  I may have mentioned previously that the first time I became aware of "to
>>  be like," meaning "to think or say," was as late as 1984, though it has
>>  since been antedated by some few years.
>>  JL
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Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
Morrill Hall 15-C
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48864 USA

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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