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.
September 4th, 2006
defective yeti … IN THE NEWS!
As far as the judge was concerned, the paper he ordered Brandon Dickens to write as punishment for ducking jury duty was plagiarized ...
Dickens, formerly of Tyrone Township, originally landed in [the judge's] doghouse in June, when he failed to return to jury duty after a lunch break. The judge ordered him to spend three days observing a civil trial and to write a five-page paper on the history of jury service.
When Dickens turned in the paper Aug. 30, a court employee recognized phrases from something else the employee had read previously. An Internet search showed many of the phrases came word for word from "Trials and Tribulations," a story by Seattle writer Matthew Baldwin that appeared in an online magazine, The Morning News ...
Apparently I’m an inspiration to an entire generation of civic duty shirkers. Makes a guy feel are warm inside.
The story first appeared in the Livingston Daily and was subsequentially picked up by AP. Jennifer and Patrick were the first of many to send it my way, and thanks for that.
In forwarding the story, one reader said “his has got to be a sign of the quality of your writing.” Well, that’s one interpretation. Another is that Mr. Dickens just plugged the phrase “stuck in jury duty goddammit” into Google and swiped the first result.
September 1st, 2006
Subject: THE STORY OF MY LIFE, PLEASE READ!!!
Jesus Christ, these bloggers are getting more aggressive every year.
Because I am a staunch opponent of animal cruelty, I’ve decided to stop using KY jelly. I recently learned that it is made by taking an adorable little ducky and cutting off its first three letters.
Porn Films For Robosexuals
Some Like It Bot
Rebel Without A Program
Uncanny Valley of the Dolls
The Old Man and the PC
Anode What You Did Last Summer
Cool Grasping Mechanism Luke
A Roomba With A View
In the Heat Of The Byte
An Affair To Cache
Chariots of Wire
Men In #000000
The Best Gears Of Our Lives
September 1st, 2006
Trust The Man: “Opening a film with a small child straining on a toilet and talking about poop isnt just a bad idea; its an invitation to unfortunate metaphor.” — Manohla Dargis, New York Times
Zoom: “The director of Zoom is Peter Hewitt, who also directed Garfield. Nothing more to say about that.” — Stephen Williams
Crossover: “The entire movie seems to have about the same budget as a 30-second sneaker commercial. I’m not talking Nike, either. I’m talking a commercial for Steve’s Second-Hand Sneaker World and Falafel Emporium that you’d see on NY1 News at 3:08 a.m.” — Kyle Smith, NEW YORK POST
Accepted: “As wild as a sixth-grade prom.” — Rene Rodriguez, MIAMI HERALD
Material Girl: “You’ll find yourself longing for the intricate plotting and ensemble acting skills of an Olsen twins movie.” –Luke Y. Thompson
John Tucker Must Die: “Whatever the target demographic was in pre-production, now it’s limited to sexually active 14-year-olds still retaking the sixth grade.” — Michael Atkinson, VILLAGE VOICE
Beerfest: “If you like to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, you’ll probably like this movie. If you’re a cognac person, the scene where the great-grandmother performs a sex act on a sausage may not be refined enough for your tastes.” — Peter Hartlaub, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE