"Like" abuse redivivus

Sun Apr 13 21:45:54 UTC 2008

        Claims that young people are inarticulate have been around for awhile.  I suspect that, while these claims doubtless are overstated, there is something to them; I certainly think that I'm more articulate now than I was 30 years ago.  I've reproduced below a recent press release, http://www.displaysense.co.uk/press-releases/43/lost-in-translation---the-unusual-tale-of-a-taxi-and-a-displaysense-display-cabinet, which would certainly support the view that its 19-year-old protagonist should strive to be more articulate.  Frankly, I have some skepticism about the story, even though it was an official press release from a large UK retailer and was picked up by several newspapers.  The newspaper accounts generally used the more common spelling, "innit."

<<A 19 year old girl from South London recently rang directory inquires looking for a taxi to take her to Bristol International airport the following morning. However, the young girl was using rhyming slang and what she actually said was that she wanted a 'Joe Baxi'. The confused operator said that she was unable to find anyone by that name. At which point the young girl replied "it ain't a person, it's a cab-init". Upon hearing this, the operator, who probably just wanted this call to end as soon as possible, located the leading supplier of display cases and cabinets, Displaysense, and put the girl through to the company.

Displaysense deal with thousands of customers on a daily basis and offer a range of products that include their all new display cabinet range. The sales staff are quite used to dealing with a range of customers and accents but this young woman proved to be something quite different. Speaking to a member of the Displaysense sales team, the short tempered girl demanded the cheapest Joe Baxi to take her to the airport the following morning, at which point the sales advisor questioned her order.

The now frustrated girl replied by saying "look love, how hard is it? All "I want is your cheapest cab-init I need it for 10am...how much is it?" at which point the sales advisor told the girl that it would be £180. The amount didn't phase her and she abruptly leapt in with her address details and declared "I wanna pay by card, cause I got no cash". Before the Displaysense sales staff could say anymore, the young girl was gone, leaving the member of staff to process the order of glass display cabinet for £180.

Steve Whittle the Marketing manager of Displaysense commented on this by saying "the very next morning we received an irate call from this same girl asking why she had a big glass display cabinet outside her house, when all she wanted was a taxi". Displaysense apologised and gladly offered the young lady a refund on the display case she received and suggested that maybe she should speak a bit clearer on the phone. Steve laughed and remarked "we still don't know if she made it to the airport on time but she did ask our delivery driver if he could give her a lift.">>

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Arnold M. Zwicky
Sent: Sunday, April 13, 2008 2:34 PM
Subject: Re: "Like" abuse redivivus

On Apr 13, 2008, at 10:23 AM, i wrote:

> ... as for
> young people, everybody knows that kids don't know shit and reject the
> wisdom of their elders.

i forgot to mention that they're also inarticulate.

by the way, it's time to look at what people mean when they talk about inarticulateness in language, especially the language of teenagers, especially with respect to "like".  i suspect that people use "inarticulate", like "sloppy" and "vague", merely to label linguistic variants they don't like -- without making an actual, testable, claim about those variants.


i know, now you'll say it's the speakers' business to tailor their utterances to their hearers' needs -- but i think most hearers have no difficulty in this case, and the speakers might fairly respond that it's the hearers' business to adjust to the variants they're confronted with.  insisting that other people change how they speak so as to conform to your grammar -- otherwise, you can't, or won't, understand them -- is a kind of grammatical egocentrism: at best, it's uncooperative, and at worst it's impolite, rude, and insulting.


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

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

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