"Like" abuse redivivus

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Sun Apr 13 17:50:34 UTC 2008

When I wrote the 1982 AMERICAN SPEECH note remarking on quotative
like--prompted, as I think the article notes, by a brief conversation that I had in 1981
or 1982 with a student in the Duke swimming pool--I assumed it was new, since
in the conversation in question the student did not actually USE it, he only
reported it as something that seemed quite au courant to him. The odd thing is
that it seemed quite unremarkable to me--I was sure that I had heard it from
other students, but it might not have registered at all had the student not
brought it to my attention.

In hindsight, I believe it seemed understandable to me as an
extention/contraction of "(What) he (said was something like), Q"--which is, after all, what
it meant (at least then). There were other such quotatives going around then as
well, at least one of which I reported in the early 1980s in AS: "BE all," as
in "And he was all, 'Q'."

I suspect that one of the reasons that putative non-users of focus like and
quotative like do not like it is just that, like "you know," focus like is
sometimes used as a filler, like "uh", and it is sometimes frequent enough to be
quite noticeable. Also, mindless purists are hung upon the inane like/as
distinction, which got a lot of attention in the 1950s with all of the anger at the
supposed corruption of youth engendered by the advertising slogan, "Winston
Tastes Good Like a Cigarette Should." People did not so much mind young people
smoking as they did young people saying "like" in such environments rather than

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