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January 20, 2010 1:12 AM   Subscribe

Christopher Hitchens analyses the use of "like" as a filler word (single link Vanity Fair). Short version: "Clueless" started it, and the general Californication of the American spoken language. African American kids say "nome sane" instead of "like". Hitchens compares the use of "like" to intoning declarative sentences as questions, also called uptalk. Like, "I go to Columbia? The University?"

Surprisingly, Ian McEwan likes "like". And Anthony Trollope might have used it in 1846 (according to the comments). So, what's not to like?
posted by NekulturnY (320 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
That is a load of bollocks, innit?!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:18 AM on January 20, 2010 [13 favorites]


As a non-native speaker of English, I'm constantly searching for words, so my speech is at least 50% filler. But I feel terribly self-conscious when a "like" slips out. I was a bit sad to see that "basically" is demoted to a filler word in the article. Seems like I have to find a new crutch...
posted by Harald74 at 1:23 AM on January 20, 2010


Clueless was reflecting what was like, already totally a popular trend. it's kinda like, ridiculous, to suggest that Clueless started it. you know?
posted by molecicco at 1:27 AM on January 20, 2010 [54 favorites]


Christopher Hitchens

Yeah. No.
posted by delmoi at 1:27 AM on January 20, 2010 [21 favorites]


So, do we have similar tics?
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:27 AM on January 20, 2010


That is a load of bollocks, innit?!

I've been meaning to ask a AskMeFi question about this for ages, recently prompted by my new Indian-heritage boss.

Namely the use of that word[s] by Indians. Even, for example, UK educated Indians. "Innit?" for the more working class, "isn't it?" for even the best educated.

It doesn't matter if it's not a question. It could be a flat out statement of fact and they'll whack "innit?" on the end. I find it most quirky.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:27 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


"So I turned around and said" is a filler that makes me homicidally crazy if I hear it repeated too often in a conversation. I have an extremely clever and well-read friend who uses it all the time. Drives me nuts.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:30 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"So I turned around and said" is a filler that makes me homicidally crazy if I hear it repeated too often in a conversation. I have an extremely clever and well-read friend who uses it all the time. Drives me nuts.

Perhaps you should consider lightening up?
posted by delmoi at 1:32 AM on January 20, 2010 [21 favorites]


Innit = you know?

I am also interested in the origins of 'yeah' as filler in UK English. I first heard it being used at the end of every sentence in 2001 and it struck me as really odd, but now it's extremely common. Although I guess, it's just a shorter 'you know?'
posted by molecicco at 1:33 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Like, wow, wipeout.
posted by readyfreddy at 1:34 AM on January 20, 2010


"'Clueless' started it"? Where are you getting that? The subhead refers to the movie, but Hitchens actually managed to get it right -- "like" was around in it's filler-word form long before Cher ever dreamt of Mel Gibson's Hamlet. As someone who was almost exactly the same age as Cher when the movie was released, I can assure you I remember this accurately, and she didn't popularize Val-speak. That Moon Unit girl did.
posted by katemonster at 1:35 AM on January 20, 2010 [17 favorites]


Perhaps you should consider lightening up?

Maybe you should shut the fark up. Sheesh. I was being bombastic on purpose, innit.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:38 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Many parents and teachers have become irritated to the point of distraction at the way the weed-style growth of “like” has spread through the idiom of the young.

[Citation needed]
posted by chavenet at 1:40 AM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Innit = you know?

Innit = isn't it. But yes, "you know" is a good synonym, if that's what you're asking.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:41 AM on January 20, 2010




African American kids say "nome sane" instead of "like".

Really? All of them? (Where's that sarcasm glyph when I need it.)
posted by reflecked at 1:48 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Some trace "innit" to British Indians (i.e. people with Indian ancestry living in Britain):
...the ubiquitous "innit" was absorbed into British Asian speech via "haina" - a Hindi tag phrase, stuck on the sentences and meaning "is no?".
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:56 AM on January 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Maybe you should shut the fark up. Sheesh. I was being bombastic on purpose, innit.

Yeah, you're not really making a very good case for not needing to lighten up.
posted by delmoi at 2:22 AM on January 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


They're calling this article "on language"? Is Hitchens then going to, in his dotage, be pulling a Safire? There's some hideous irony in that thought.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:30 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


In my experience, a gentle approach to addressing this issue is far more effective than blatant criticism. Nonetheless, I agree completely with Hitchens complaint. Not that that matters, like, at all though. I'm just saying . . .

You know?
posted by RoseyD at 2:39 AM on January 20, 2010


...the ubiquitous "innit" was absorbed into British Asian speech via "haina" - a Hindi tag phrase, stuck on the sentences and meaning "is no?".
AHA! One of the hardest suffixes for me to lose after I stepped out of an Ind-glish playground and into an international university, was the Hinglish suffix na. Basically, I had this habit of making a series of assertions - not unlike declaring variables in a computer program incidentally :-) - and then following it up with meaningful connections between the assertions.

So, assume you've dropped by this website for the first time and were trying to understand its quirks, you'll go:
[Metafilter]: Here, it is not so professional na, so the background is blue only.
A lot of Indian ex-pats here in Singapore side-step this and substitute 'right' with 'na':
[Metafilter]: It is not so professional here right, so the background is blue.
Which is roughly how you'd say it in Singlish. Perhaps the "right" way to construct that sentence in Queen's English would be to rip it open and move the subject and predicate around (and use a few prepositions, while we're at it):
[Metafilter]: Because things are not entirely professional out here, the background here is blue in colour.
The subject-predicate combo is one of the most difficult shifts I have when I'm switching codes and languages. :-)

[Which is not to take anything away from the Mefi blue or the threads' standards obviously :-) , just thought I'd play with a regulation in-joke]
posted by the cydonian at 2:50 AM on January 20, 2010 [11 favorites]


Blue in colour

As opposed to blue in, what, weight?

"Like" and "Nome sane" are pretty prevalent at my workplace, but even more common and even more annoying is the verbal tic of starting nearly every sentence with the word "so".

"Ed, how's it going with the updates to that spreadsheet?"
"So I'm having some issues with Excel right now and the spreadsheet isn't ready"

Around my workplace, it seems to have replaced the throwaway "well".
posted by emelenjr at 3:06 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


African American kids say "nome sane" instead of "like".


Don't forget "nah mean?"
posted by meadowlark lime at 3:12 AM on January 20, 2010


Hitchens doesn't like, like, like.
posted by Elmore at 3:12 AM on January 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


Dislike.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:23 AM on January 20, 2010


Technically, these are filled pauses. I find it fascinating how they latch on and become unconscious. Hitchens says about a Carolyn Kennedy sentence: This is an example of “filler” words being used as props, to try to shore up a lame sentence. I don't think that's quite fair. While it's certainly true that many people fill pauses when they're flailing while speaking about what they don't really know, often it has more to do with fluidity of thought and speaking (or the connection between the two).
posted by Red Loop at 3:32 AM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Christopher Hitchens wants to, like, lock tongues with Andrew Sullivan.
posted by pracowity at 3:35 AM on January 20, 2010


With any luck, once that had happened, they'd stagger like dick-knot cock-locked dogs off behind the woodshed and into the distance, and neither would ever be heard from again.

Damn, the 24-hour attention-churn of constantly-on media kicks up some noisome jetsam -- like those two bozos -- on to the shoreline.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:43 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Short version: "Clueless" [1995] started it...

Like, oh my god. Like, totally. **
Fuck off, for sure, like totally. *

* Valley Girl, Crawford and Lane, 1983.
** Valley Girl, Frank Zappa, 1982.

posted by rokusan at 3:51 AM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I hate "like" less than I hate "y'know".
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:00 AM on January 20, 2010


I'll take any of them over upspeak.
posted by pracowity at 4:06 AM on January 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


I occasionally do some work involving transcribing police interviews recorded in Southern California prisons, and I, too, was intrigued by the frequency of nome sane?/nota mean? as filler. No, I'm sure not all young black men speak that way, but it was (a) ubiquitous among that sub-population, at least, and (b) a linguistic tick that I hadn't been consciously aware of until I wound up typing it out hundreds of times when transcribing a few hours of material.

And not to defend Hitchens, but if you actually read the linked article, he's not saying that Clueless started it. I know it's such a long piece, but you only have to get four words into the editor's tag line, which, like, totally states

Since, like, the 60s...
posted by SomeTrickPony at 4:11 AM on January 20, 2010


But, delmoi, tell us how you really feel. (Isn't that annoying? That's how it feels to have one's emotional involvement in a subject criticized.)

Recently I was listening to music in a place called Banjo Joe's* in New York City and around me were graduate student friends "catching up" with one another. One said something to the effect of:

"I'm working on a, like, paper, on, like, the relationship of language to, like sociological effects of, like, [something], based on, like, Derrida....[etc.]"

"Who's Derrida?" asked his friend.

"Um, he was, like, this poststructuralist guy who, like, ....etc."

"No!!!" I wanted to scream. "You speak that way and you're a graduate student in linguistics?? (or something like that. Sociology. Who knows.) This must stop!!"

(*irrelevant info)
posted by DMelanogaster at 4:18 AM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


OED says:

7. dial. and vulgar. Used parenthetically to qualify a preceding statement: = ‘as it were’, ‘so to speak’. Also, colloq. (orig. U.S.), as a meaningless interjection or expletive.

1778 F. BURNEY Evelina II. xxiii. 222 Father grew quite uneasy, like, for fear of his Lordship's taking offence. 1801 tr. Gabrielli's Myst. Husb. III. 252 Of a sudden like. 1815 SCOTT Guy M. vi, The leddy, on ilka Christmas night..gae twelve siller pennies to ilka puir body about, in honour of the twelve apostles like. 1826 J. WILSON Noct. Ambr. Wks. 1855 I. 179 In an ordinar way like. 1838 LYTTON Alice II. iii, If your honour were more amongst us, there might be more discipline like. 1840-41 DE QUINCEY Style II. Wks. 1862 X. 224 ‘Why like, it's gaily nigh like to four mile like’. 1870 E. PEACOCK Ralf Skirl. I. 112 Might I be so bold as just to ax, by way of talk like, if [etc.]. 1911 A. BENNETT Hilda Lessways I. vi. 49 He hasn't passed his examinations like... He has that Mr. Karkeek to cover him like. 1929 ‘H. GREEN’ Living vi. 57 'E went to the side like and looked. 1950 Neurotica Autumn 45 Like how much can you lay on [i.e. give] me? 1961 New Statesman 22 Sept. 382/2 ‘You're a chauvinist,’ Danny said. ‘Oh, yeah. Is that bad like?’ 1966 Lancet 17 Sept. 635/2 As we say pragmatically in Huddersfield, ‘C'est la vie, like!’ 1971 [see fighting chance s.v. FIGHTING vbl. n. 3b]. 1971 Black Scholar Apr.-May 26/1 Man like the dude really flashed his hole card. 1973 Black Panther 17 Nov. 9/4 What will be the contradictions that produce further change? Like, it seems to me that it would be virtually impossible to avoid some contradictions.
posted by biffa at 4:24 AM on January 20, 2010 [16 favorites]


If the author was really against the use of meaningless, empty words purely to fill space, he would have gone for a walk rather than write this rather tired article. Sorry to snark, but this kind of complaint has been around for a long time, and it's almost as though he picked the subject of the article out of a deck of "sure fire opinion columns".

I must say, I love "innit", purely because it bounces off the roof of the mouth like an enthusiastic verbal gesture. Can someone save my sanity - it isn't really spelt "nome sane" is it?

"dick-knot cock-locked dogs": my hat is off to you sir!
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 4:24 AM on January 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


"No!!!" I wanted to scream. "You speak that way and you're a graduate student in linguistics?? (or something like that. Sociology. Who knows.) This must stop!!"

It is quite possible that the person in questions speaks more casually around friends and more formally in a professional setting. Many people are capable of multiple speaking styles appropriate to different contexts.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:27 AM on January 20, 2010 [17 favorites]


I admit I took a shortcut about "Clueless". But how else was I going to use the "aliciasilverstone" tag, you tell me that. Nome sane?
posted by NekulturnY at 4:28 AM on January 20, 2010


I saw Tim Minchin's live show recently. He cautioned against the incorrect use of the word 'like' with an example:

A: "My wife and I fuck like rabbits."
B: "Dude! Really? My wife and I only fuck, like, each other."
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 4:30 AM on January 20, 2010 [39 favorites]


it isn't really spelt "nome sane" is it?

No. There's a silent g.

Gnome sane?
posted by pracowity at 4:34 AM on January 20, 2010 [18 favorites]


The thing is, is that people who pepper their speech with unnecessary words are AWFUL.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:40 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Aight, Chris, we, like, feel ya.
posted by Dumsnill at 4:43 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Linguists have been all over this for 20 years. You're a little late to the party Hitch. Cynthia McLemore's early 1990s dissertation on sorority-girl speech comes to mind.

What Hitchens misses is the way these verb modifiers and suprasegmental forms have become fully integrated into contemporary English syntax. They're not wrong or ungrammatical. In fact, they extend the grammatical precision of English (especially with respect to a) reported speech and b) turn-taking cues) in interesting ways.

I can [be all like] (shakes body in disgust) even as I [go] ("no really, it's OK if you don't wash your hands"), and you can "go" ("whatever" [shrug, raised intonation]) while you're [like] ("ohmygawwwd, you're such a dweeb"). What you're "like" is how you actually feel and what you wish you could say, while "go" is what you actually say. This is a useful distinction to reduce to a simple choice between one syllable verbs of speaking that can co-occur in a description of the same communicative event.

There's way more to it (to use another modern dialect form, "way more").

Rising intonation on declarative sentences, which has been widely interpreted as a sign of weakness, a feminizing of declaration so that it shares suprasegmental properties with question intonation, actually (there's another one) appears to have the function of heightening dialogism, increasing the fluidity of turn-taking in conversation by inviting a response. Whether or not this is something young girls are socialized to to their disadvantage or not, it's now showing up widely in the speech of boys and young men too.

Hitch should stick to politics.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:50 AM on January 20, 2010 [94 favorites]


If she had been a generation younger and a bit more déclassé

Le Hitch is a witty dog, but should probably learn how French adjectives work before chucking this stinker out. Because it pretty obviously exposes him as a wanker.

In other Hitchens news, women are not funny. Hey, what is with that?
posted by Wolof at 4:52 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


In other words, prescriptivists and would-be grammar mavens, back off. These aren't "unnecessary" or "filler" words. They are a quite predictable generational evolution of English syntax and the spread of a dialect into more standard contexts and idioms. They make the language more powerful in its oral expression, not less so.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:53 AM on January 20, 2010 [14 favorites]


Also, what fmc said with a side order of "phatic".
posted by Wolof at 4:54 AM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


"So I says to him, I says, you're dead."
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:55 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a verbal chameleon tic. So what annoys me the most about this is when I fall into the trap. It's hard to stop sometime.

Like, nome sane?
posted by Splunge at 4:56 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


...the ubiquitous "innit" was absorbed into British Asian speech via "haina" - a Hindi tag phrase, stuck on the sentences and meaning "is no?".

The "haina" I know and love (3rd definition in Urban Dictionary) has the same meaning but different origin. See, also, heybonics. Is this the linguistic equivalent of convergent evolution?
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:56 AM on January 20, 2010


Oh, and one last point: I believe all of these grammatical distinctions emerged first from African American vernacular English dialects, and very likely (like other features of AAVE) preserve or import grammatical distinctions that would be obligatory in certain West African languages (such as the aspectual distinction between expressing or deleting the copula -- "the here coffee cold" (this cup) vs. "the coffee here be cold" (always).
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:58 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sorry, that was "the coffee here [x] cold" vs. "the coffee here [be] cold."
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:00 AM on January 20, 2010


I have not read the article but I have never heard that usage "none same" in my entire life. Now " know what I'm saying", "know what I mean" and "you feel me" , I hear those all the time.
posted by Rubbstone at 5:04 AM on January 20, 2010


Here's the WorldCat entry for Cindy McLemore's now classic dissertation (1991): "The pragmatic interpretation of English intonation: sorority speech."

1991, Hitch. That's almost 20 years ago.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:05 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


And Patricia Cukor-Wila's article "She say, she go, she be like: verbs of quotation over time in African American Vernacular English." (American Speech 77/1, 2002).
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:07 AM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hitch should stick to politics.

The farther away from politics Hitch stays, the better. Otherwise I agree with many of the things you are saying.
posted by Dumsnill at 5:08 AM on January 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


And "The Use of 'Like' as a Marker of Reported Speech and Thought: A Case of Grammaticalization in Process." (Suzanne Romaine and Deborah Lange), American Speech 66/3, 1991.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:10 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The one that annoys me (even though I frequently use it unthinkingly) is "Yeah, no". It ends up in front of everything.

A: "Hey man, I heard you went to see Gerund and the Subjunctives last night. Was it good?"
B: "Yeah, no, it was awesome. Grammertastic, nome sane?"

It seems like it's either an attempt to put some needless uncertainty into a phrase (serving the same purpose as upspeak), or possibly it's that society has now got so ridiculously sarcastic that everything has to be re-affirmed to show that it's supposed to be a genuine assertion (making it a contraction of "Yeah, it was awesome. No, really, it was awesome, I'm not kidding.")
posted by ZsigE at 5:11 AM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Yeah no" = "Sort of."
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:13 AM on January 20, 2010


Rubbstone: it's "nome sane" not "none same."
posted by grubi at 5:13 AM on January 20, 2010


I only wish I spoke as well as he does.
posted by Wolof at 5:14 AM on January 20, 2010


"Like" is not (always) a filler. It's a grammatical construction that's actually pretty useful. Like, I can give an example without having to say "for instance" or "for example". Or I can mark an upcoming metaphor so I'm not, like, throwing it at you without warning.
posted by DU at 5:17 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bill: My kids say: He said to me, and I'm like... and he's like... and she's like...
Rollins: It's all... He's all... She's all...
Bill: I can't get behind that kind of like, English!
posted by bwg at 5:17 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Indeed, I forgot "to be all" (which is even more "what I didn't say" than to "be like," which could be a paraphrase of what you actually said meant to heighten the underlying connotation of the tone).

I'm all verklempt now.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:20 AM on January 20, 2010


Seems to me that the use of like as a filler word was already present in the early 80s, since it was parodied in both the movie "Valley Girl" and in Frank Zappa's song of the same name. Maybe it was common among girls in greater Los Angeles area, and those two pop culture milestones spread it worldwide.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:20 AM on January 20, 2010


Every time I banish one filler phrase from my speech, another one pops up. Right now I am plagued by "imean" at the beginning, end, and middle of sentences in all sorts of meaningless situations. Sorry about that, all future conversations. I'm just not good at translating my thoughts to words.

On preview, "Yeah no": Guilty as charged.
posted by bobobox at 5:20 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hitch should stick to politics.

Hitch should stick to waterboarding himself.

I don't mean that (entirely) out of spite: the linked article was a genuinely interesting and affecting piece of journalism, and I was impressed that he publicly changed his position on torture. (Others were not so impressed.)

The FPP article, however, sounds tired and a little lazy and rather late to the party, as others have said. I did enjoy the chance to learn from fourcheesemac what the real experts have to say, and the story of "innit" is a fascinating.
posted by col_pogo at 5:23 AM on January 20, 2010


"a fascinating one", that is.
posted by col_pogo at 5:25 AM on January 20, 2010


Just another like data point: this was being frequently used in my high school in the late 80s. Up-speak as well.

It was, in fact, being used so frequently that my history teacher had developed a fantastic method of dealing with it: he encouraged all the students in a class to slam their hands against the desk whenever anyone used like as a filler-word. Which was entirely counter-productive, as it would inevitably fluster the hell out of the speaker, causing them to say "like" once again, in a quick cascade of desk-banging.

"Can anyone explain why the colonists wanted independence? Lisa?"
"Well, the colonists were, like..."
SLAM!
"...um, they, weren't, like..."
SLAM!
"...uh, like..."
SLAM!

Yes, it was mean-spirited. But it provided plenty of amusement to those of us who were fucking sick of this mental laziness. THINK what you want to say, PAUSE if you need to collect your thoughts.

The problem in America is that we use pauses as communicative indicators that we're finished speaking. But because no one is actually listening to anyone, and instead are merely waiting for their opportunity to say what they think about something, there's a subconscious desire to keep talking lest we cede the conversation to someone else.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:26 AM on January 20, 2010 [13 favorites]


The one that annoys me (even though I frequently use it unthinkingly) is "Yeah, no". It ends up in front of everything.

Is this not "Yeah, know", with a missing "I" in the middle?
posted by dng at 5:30 AM on January 20, 2010


fourcheesemac: they extend the grammatical precision of English (especially with respect to a) reported speech and b) turn-taking cues) in interesting ways.


better than letting the LISP programmers use natural language....
posted by dongolier at 5:31 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


But it provided plenty of amusement to those of us who were fucking sick of this mental laziness. THINK what you want to say, PAUSE if you need to collect your thoughts.

Ah prescriptivists and your unwavering belief in the Mental Hygiene Theory of Language. We need to start teaching linguistics in high school (if not before).
posted by DU at 5:32 AM on January 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


This thread is immensely interesting, especially fourcheesemac's contributions. That's, like, all I have to say.

I was gonna end that comment with a question mark indicating upspeak, but... I just can't bring myself to do that. Even as a joke.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:37 AM on January 20, 2010


Hey, this reminds me: how are you supposed to respond when your conversation partner habitually ends sentences with: "...you know what I'm saying?" I was in a conversation a few weeks ago and every few sentences ended this way. I didn't want to sound like South Park's Butters and continually reply YES, I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE SAYING, but it had me a bit flummoxed. Are you supposed to say something like "I hear ya" or do you just let them slide by? Do you know what I'm saying?
posted by Auden at 5:40 AM on January 20, 2010


"Yeah, no": Is this not "Yeah, know", with a missing "I" in the middle?

That's potentially how it started, but it's certainly not what it means now - I've heard it (and used it) in front of statements that are saying "yes" to a question, not confirming someone else's statement of fact. Not convinced that it means "sort of", either, as it frequently appears in front of very strongly affirmative statements. It just sounds like vocal punctuation now.
posted by ZsigE at 5:41 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


In 1960 Paul Goodman discussed the use of "like" in "Growing Up Absurd."

Now a more general withdrawal, from experiencing al-
together, is expressed by the omnicapable word "like."
E.g., "Like I'm sleepy," meaning "if I experienced any-
thing, it would be feeling sleepy." "Like if I go to like
New York, I'll look you up," indicating that in this
definite and friendly promise, there is no felt purpose in
that trip or any trip. Technically, "like" is here a particle
expressing a tonality or attitude of utterance, like the
Greek /*&, verily, or ty, now look. "Like" expresses ado-
lescent embarrassment or diffidence. Thus, if I talk to a
young fellow and give him the security of continued at-
tention, the "like" at once vanishes and is replaced by
"You know," "I mean," "you know what I mean," simi-
larly interposed in every sentence.


posted by Obscure Reference at 5:41 AM on January 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Is this not "Yeah, know", with a missing "I" in the middle?
Yeah*, no**. But it can mean many things depending on what the next sentence is. Language log has something to say about this.

*I hear what you're saying.
**No, it's not.
posted by bobobox at 5:42 AM on January 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


The thing is, is that people who pepper their speech with unnecessary words are AWFUL.

(or was that on purpose?)
posted by Challahtronix at 5:42 AM on January 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


I remember learning the phrase "and I'm all... but then he was all... so then I'm all..", and thinking "oh I like that better than just saying 'like' all the time." (I was 14). To me, the two are entirely interchangeable.

I am also guitly of saying "yeah, no" all the time. I am starting to confuse languages too. Living in Germany, and trying to speak German, I find myself, in English, ending sentences with "or?" more often than I like. As in, "So we're still going to the museum on Saturday, or?" ...or... "Get a large plate and everyone shares it, or?"
posted by molecicco at 5:43 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


When "uh" was used a lot during our daily status meetings at work, we started tallying each person's use of the word "uh". It was pretty effective. You could probably do the same for "like" and it might be less derailing but still pretty effective.
posted by kalessin at 5:47 AM on January 20, 2010


More German->Englishisms - saying "exactly" ALL THE TIME (ie, genau).

More on filler words: I was in Toronto recently, and a Chilean woman who had moved to the city recently said "Canadians say 'actually' in almost every sentence" - and actually, she's kinda right.
posted by molecicco at 5:48 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Back in grad school, I had a German professor who used to end his lectures with a sentence he would begin portentously with "ALSO, Bach's Leipzig works show intensive development of his harmonic language." (or whatever)

Alas, "Also" means "thus," or "therefore," in German. But it means "In addition" or "on the other hand" in English.

And because we never knew which language his "Also" (prononounced al-ZO) was in, we never knew if he was summarizing his (hitherto indecipherable) lecture or tacking on a final qualification that undermined it.

I left musicology for linguistics and anthropology that year.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:50 AM on January 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


I always thought "yeah no" meant "yeah [I have acknowledged what you said but the answer is] no".

The only verbal tic that even remotely bugs me is "same difference", which to me seems a nonsensical blend of "same thing" and "no difference". Other than that I'm easy like Sunday morning.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:54 AM on January 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Something else that's always struck me about the spread of "like" and "goes" and "be all like" is that they are canonically *oral* forms, but replace some of the functions of what used to be embodied discourse markers (rolled eyes, an aghast expression, a bodily shudder) with a form that communicates (with or without associated kinesic elements) the same meaning as rolled eyes (etc.) *over the phone,* where you can't see your interlocutor's body. So they're oral forms, but they usefully supply semantic information that would otherwise be available over the visual channel in co-present interaction.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:56 AM on January 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


Am I, like, the only person in this thread that understand English? Maybe I'm the only one younger than 68 and am underconcerned about my lawn.

"Yeah, no" does not derive from "Yeah I know". "Yeah, no" means I'm about to fundamentally disagree with something you said, but I want to do so non-combatively. Either because I want to soften the blow or because your wrongness is due to a misunderstanding.

In the example above, someone said "yeah, no, it was awesome". Meaning "you are wrong, the show wasn't just good, it was AWESOME". Another example would be an exchange like this with, say, your boss that you don't want to offend and about a coworker you don't want to say something explicitly bad about:

Boss: We should get Jenkins to make the pitch on this contract.

Contrast "No, I think Philips would do a better job." with "Yeah, no, I'm thinking Philips." In the first response, you are directly opposing the boss (bad idea #1) and also making that opposition so obvious he's going to ask why, so you need to explain how much Jenkins sucks (bad idea #2). With "yeah, no" you've softened the blow enabling your disagreement to be swept under the rug.
posted by DU at 5:58 AM on January 20, 2010 [17 favorites]


I am suddenly reminded of the right wing mockery of Bill Clinton for his evasive "It depends on what the meaning of the verb 'is' is." Righties responded as if it was obvious what "is" means.

Linguists and philosophers have run aground on that question for centuries. It is not possible to give an unambiguous definition of what "is" (or the copula) means in human language.

Which gives rise to my pet peeve phrase: "it is what it is." You don't say.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:02 AM on January 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


"Canadians say 'actually' in almost every sentence"

In college I had a friend who enjoyed tallying her Australian (linguistics) professor's per-lecture count of the rather impressive filler "in fact, actually."
posted by heyforfour at 6:03 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


...the ubiquitous "innit" was absorbed into British Asian speech via "haina"

Nonsense. It's clearly a Cockney pronunciation of "isn't it?"
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:03 AM on January 20, 2010 [14 favorites]


Which gives rise to my pet peeve phrase: "it is what it is." You don't say.

But at the times this is said, someone is implying that it is what it isn't. They've built up some expectations about how a thing should function or whatever Then someone has to point out that it is what it is [not what you want/expect it to be].
posted by DU at 6:06 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had a German philosophy professor who said "dann könnten wir so zu sagen sagen" (then we could, so to say, say...) several dozen times each class.

Even better: the Flight of the Conchords episode where their third band member keeps ending his sentences with "am I right?" and Jermaine always tries to answer seriously, like "I'm gonna bone her, am I right? Am I right?" "...uh, probably?"
posted by creasy boy at 6:17 AM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I know, I'm just teasing. Que sera, sera.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:18 AM on January 20, 2010


If I read that article in Andy Rooney's voice, it makes more sense to me for some reason.
posted by Pragmatica at 6:19 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love the South Park episode where Butters becomes a pimp and ends every statement with an over-enunciated "Do you know what I am saying?"
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:20 AM on January 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Short version: "Clueless" started it, and the general Californication of the American spoken language.

Valley Girl, Moon Unit Zappa, 1982. Like, everyone knows this.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:21 AM on January 20, 2010


Next week, Hitchens presents his slightly skewed take on airplane food and those baggy pants the kids are wearing today!
posted by The Whelk at 6:22 AM on January 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


So is there any meaning to "go ahead and" when placed before a verb? 'Cause I hate that one. Seems utterly meaningless.
posted by echo target at 6:26 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I look forward to his take on "honing in".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:28 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have no quarrel with "like".
posted by dunkadunc at 6:29 AM on January 20, 2010


I think "nome sane?" comes from "know what I'm saying?" In particular, for those who seem confused, it's two sort-of-one-syllable words; the first one is pronounced like "gnome" and the second one is pronounced like "insane", although the vowels seem a lot more complicated than that.

But it took me way too long to figure this out just now.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:30 AM on January 20, 2010


When I was in theatre in middle school, our teacher would totally red flag you if you were doing a reading and threw in "um", "uh", "like", or something similar. I carried that with me for many years, thinking I was speaking properly... unfortunately, this would result in pauses in my speech as I would think of what to say, and in the rest of the world, pauses in thought/dialogue strike other people as a sort of Manchester carrier bit and they start transmitting... So as a result I've had to pepper my speech with filler words so I can finish a fucking sentence.

Sorry Mr. Rome, I tried.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:32 AM on January 20, 2010


"Like" is a discourse marker. Every single language has them and they serve multiple functions in conversation, not the least of which is making people like Hitchens look even more like cranky assholes when they pass moral judgment on people who use them.

Hitchens's article is disgustingly classist. Unless he's holding forth on the subject of gauging the quality of vodka (which is something I would expect Hitchens to be a master at), then he needs to, like, STFU.
posted by the_bone at 6:35 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hey, this reminds me: how are you supposed to respond when your conversation partner habitually ends sentences with: "...you know what I'm saying?"

The same way you respond when someone ends a sentence with "...I tell you what." As in, "That Meadows boy... I tell you what."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:36 AM on January 20, 2010


When "Get Fuzzy" has that cat from England(?) visit Bucky he says words like "innit" and several others that leave me clueless about what he is saying.
posted by republican at 6:36 AM on January 20, 2010


Christopher Hitchens is a drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:37 AM on January 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


it isn't really spelt "nome sane" is it?

I've never seen this spelling before this FFP, and it seems pretty silly. The pronunciation is just slightly more run together than "Know what I'm saying?" in other American g-dropping dialects, to the extent of sometimes omitting the t. The spelling "nome sane" implies that it's really just two syllables and that the vowels are nasalized (they aren't). You could just write something like "Know'm sayin'" to indicate a really contracted pronunciation, without misrepresenting the pronunciation or making the phrase seem more incomprehensible than it actually is.

fourcheesemac, a bit of dialectical nit-picking: "the here coffee"? Isn't it "this here coffee" or just "this coffee"? I've lived in VA most my life, and I've never heard this. Are you miss-hearing / ɾɪˢhɪɚ / or / ɾɪʰhɪɚ /, with a really lightly pronounced s or aspiration, for / ɾᵊhɪɚ / ? Or do people really say that in NC? (I realize there's a pretty sharp line between Southern VA Piedmont and Central NC, and I've never spent much time in NC.)
posted by nangar at 6:39 AM on January 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Alas, "Also" means "thus," or "therefore," in German. But it means "In addition" or "on the other hand" in English.

I'm giggling at the phrase "On the other hand spoke Zarathustra" right now.

The "yeah, no..." I've encountered in real life (as opposed to the internet "Yeah. No." which is as irritating as "This." and "First." and "OMGWTFLOLwhatever") has always come off as agreeing with something negative. "Yeah, no - that wasn't a fun time." Maybe I've been applying too literal a reading, though.
posted by mintcake! at 6:40 AM on January 20, 2010


Also, I've noticed from watching "The Trailer Park Boys" that Canadians like to use the word F**K as a filler word ;)
posted by republican at 6:40 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whoah, Speech Club flashback: in practice, our coach would hit a very loud buzzer for every um and uh. That reinforcement was rendered extinct just days into summer vacation.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:43 AM on January 20, 2010


nangar - note my correction in the subsequent comment
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:44 AM on January 20, 2010


Totally like whatever, you know? - Taylor Mali
posted by CaseyB at 6:47 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm too old to have picked up "like" as an unconscious speech habit. But I have to make an effort to not use "actually" and "in fact" to kick off sentences.
posted by The Deej at 6:54 AM on January 20, 2010


fourcheesemac - I can't find the correction, but - noted.
posted by nangar at 6:57 AM on January 20, 2010


The Hitchens article was OK, but I'm really enjoying the conversations it sparked. Even though it pains me to see a few of my verbal crutches discussed. I try to wrangle them in, but I see a few more that I have to work on.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:00 AM on January 20, 2010




Valley Girl definitely started it. I remember this clearly, because I went away to summer camp in the summer of 1983 at the age of 12. When I left for camp, I talked like a normal person. When I returned from camp, I could not stop saying "like" every third word. The song was a hit, and the talk was one of those teen shibboleths that was insidiously easy to pick up. AFter I got home it became a real point of contention in my family, as it drove both my parents crazy, and a lot of my attempts to tell stories about my day at dinner were interrupted with a disciplined effort on my father's part to eradicate this verbal tic ("Were you like confused, or were you confused?")

I would RTFA, except that I see that is by Christopher Hitchens.
posted by Miko at 7:04 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I have to make an effort to not use "actually" and "in fact" to kick off sentences.

I'm guilty of both along with an unexplainable use of "to be honest...", which I apparently say quite often without even realizing it.

I'm also guilty of a reliance on "ummms", although that's gotten better thanks to attending a few Toastmaters meetings. Once you have somebody count your "ummm"s and "ahhh"s in a three minute speech you really pay more attention to doing it. A second of silence in between thoughts is actually a good thing - especially in place of "ummmmm....".
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:06 AM on January 20, 2010


If I had to choose between eliminating Christopher Hitchens from this world and eliminating a harmless verbal tic, I would choose Hitchens. A thousand times over.
posted by sid at 7:06 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Studying French in school in the 1960s, we were actually taught to use "ness-pah" (n'est-ce pas) as a filler. No doubt some teachers of English in France were exhorting their students to use "like"; the grammar of speech, of course, should be derived from the way it is spoken, and not the other way around.

Here in Italy, spoken sentences are usually rounded off with "capisci?" (unnerstan?). But the verbal tic which reduces me to toothgrinding, fistballing, barely contollable rage, in almost every interview of a footballer (cronically inarticulate), it seems, is the dragging out of a vowel over - literally - several seconds ("I don't knooooooooooooooooooooooooooow") to occupy space, prevent interruption and gain time to think of something even faintly interesting to say. I'm not aware of this tic in any other language I'm familiar with.
posted by aqsakal at 7:06 AM on January 20, 2010


I'm aw like j'naamean like innit.
posted by ob at 7:07 AM on January 20, 2010


I'm going with 1983 as the tipping point cause I remember my Mom's friends (my babysitters) being, like totally into the Valley Girl thing you know, I mean chill out and have a mental margarita or something my GOD! And they're totally not gnarly you guys cause they'd let me like watch TV over at their house which was rad cause I didn't like have a TV that worked good.
posted by The Whelk at 7:07 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe it was common among girls in greater Los Angeles area, and those two pop culture milestones spread it worldwide.

Yes, I think that's the case. They were lampooning a local pop culture with the song, and the song's unexpected popularity caused it to spread nationwide, along with lots of other Valspeak like "totally" and "gag me with a spoon" and so on.
posted by Miko at 7:07 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ehm, the grammar of speech (as opposed to the grammar of the written word)...
posted by aqsakal at 7:08 AM on January 20, 2010


What's the word for that, the "nome sane" where something is written so that you pronounce with whatever dialect. I love that. I remember a comic book for England that wished the reader on it's cover a "Veddy, veddy, Meddy Christmas," to imitate the cockney accent and of course Twain used it all the time in his books. Is there a name for that?
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 7:12 AM on January 20, 2010


Other things people say that get my goad:

"get my goat" : Fuck you, you no-goat-owning English-language-urinator.
"totally" : Never as total as one imagines.
-- : It's fucking m-dash, OK? Not two hyphens. ONE FUCKING M-DASH—with no spaces surrounding.
[punctuation][space] : TWO spaces after a sentence. TWO. Not ONE. TWO you fucking heathen.
[mouth breathers] : Unless you were born without sinus cavities, close your goddamned mouth when you breath.
goddamm : N. Not M. N

/needs to chill the fuck out
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:12 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


So, nu. At the end of the day, like, y'know what I'm saying, desu ne?
posted by ardgedee at 7:15 AM on January 20, 2010


Hitchens is indeed a vodka-soaked gasbag, but I always enjoy reading fourcheesemac on language.

And ha, my German prof used to do the "alZO" thing all the time, so much so that I picked it up from her.

I dislike the "yeah, no" construction because it sounds very Chandler-from-Friends, or some other similar douchebaggy character. Very affected.

If you want some insight into your own unconscious verbal tics, raise a kid. I was a little perturbed when my four-year-old paused after being asked a question, tapped his lip with his finger and said "Hmm, let me see..."
posted by emjaybee at 7:20 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think "nome sane?" comes from "know what I'm saying?" In particular, for those who seem confused, it's two sort-of-one-syllable words; the first one is pronounced like "gnome" and the second one is pronounced like "insane", although the vowels seem a lot more complicated than that.

Not sure I agree about that pronunciation with the long "o". There's another similar expression, "nahmtalkinbout" which translates the vowel in "know" as a short "a" sound. I think instead of "nome sane", it's more commonly "nahm sane".

Don't forget "nah mean?"
Yep.

...the ubiquitous "innit" was absorbed into British Asian speech via "haina" - a Hindi tag phrase, stuck on the sentences and meaning "is no?".

The "haina" I know and love (3rd definition in Urban Dictionary) has the same meaning but different origin.


The first time I becamee aware of this word was in a horrible Christian Bale movie called Harsh Times where he played a deranged White guy getting into trouble with some Latino buddies in South Central LA. Bale's character spoke this awful "Spanglish" (compounded by Bale's attempt to mask his British accent) and tossed around "haina" a lot. Fortunately, within the context of the movie it was easy to figure out what the word meant. Urban Dictionary has an alternate spelling, "heina", which has a pretty straightforward derivation from Spanish and Portuguese spoken in the Caribbean or South America.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:22 AM on January 20, 2010


ExitPursuedByBear - eye dialect.
posted by nangar at 7:22 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know if you'd call it a verbal tic, but ever since I watched The Wire I begin, inject and end my sentences with "muhfucker."
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:23 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


/britishempire
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:28 AM on January 20, 2010


If you want some insight into your own unconscious verbal tics, raise a kid.

Or read a transcript of your own five hour deposition that is about 20% "y'know." That fixed that. Yikes.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:31 AM on January 20, 2010


Aside: I remember the first time I heard Valley Girl, listening to WGCL late at night. With all the valley girl voiceovers, I thought I was getting interference from someone else's cordless phone. It was years before I heard the song again and figured out what was going on.

Another aside: I had always thought that OMG was an extension of Valley Girl lingo, as in "Oh. My. Ga-a-awd!"

Even further aside: very guilty of "actually," "in fact" and gratuitous use of the first person.
posted by slogger at 7:34 AM on January 20, 2010


It's surreal to read this article because it's EXACTLY what I've been complaining about for the past 5 years. I thought I was the only one who cared.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:36 AM on January 20, 2010


LOL Hitch thinks Clueless started it lol. OMG I am lolling LOL. It was around when I was in grade school lol. And I'm like, old and stuff? Anyway, like, lol, ya'mean?
posted by Mister_A at 7:38 AM on January 20, 2010


[punctuation][space] : TWO spaces after a sentence. TWO. Not ONE. TWO you fucking heathen.

This practice is completely useless with the advent of proportional fonts.
posted by sid at 7:41 AM on January 20, 2010 [11 favorites]


And it's true, if you want to find out what filler words you use, raise a kid. I'm all like, "why this kid say 'actually' all the time?"
posted by Mister_A at 7:42 AM on January 20, 2010


Yes, it was mean-spirited. But it provided plenty of amusement to those of us who were fucking sick of this mental laziness. THINK what you want to say, PAUSE if you need to collect your thoughts

And after you finish thinking and pausing and gathering your thoughts, make sure to unleash a string of vicious invective directly at both the teacher and that asshole in the class practically fucking grinning at each opportunity to utterly disrupt your train of thought while you're trying to participate in a class discussion.

Discussion is a good deal more informal than giving a speech; it's not necessary to purge all filler in a conversation in order to be understood. If students are over-reliant upon "like," to the point of distraction, the teacher can take them aside to talk about their communication skills, or assign students to give short speeches periodically, rather than encourage the other students to desk-drum them into humiliation whenever they open their mouths.

Speaking carefully takes practice and confidence. Not everyone springs from the womb with these qualities. Even those of us who are generally regarded as well-spoken.
posted by desuetude at 7:42 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


First line of How To Speak Hip (1959):
Hey, look, uh, y'know, like, if you bought this record to learn how to speak hip from a record, man, that is the squarest thing I ever heard of, I mean, wow. But, look, so, like, you bought it you must need it so that was a smart move, you know what I mean, or something?
So, dig, like I count two /look/s, two /like/s, a /y'know/, a /you know what I mean/, a tag question and a rising cadence, in the first utterance. That's 1959. Moon's father was barely out of high school. OMG, I mean like wow.

All this apparently extraneous material does two things:
1) establishes the speaker's attitude (mainly, distance) toward the topic, and
b) encourages involvement by the listener.

Kinda like jazz in that respect. Are you with me?

Good teachers do the tag question thing, too. Does that make sense? Agree or disagree?

Finally, I note that John Cage habitually ended declarative statements with a little rising /Hm?/, similar to the Canadian /eh?/ tag. Really irritating until you got used to it. It helped that a lot of his declarative statements were pretty interesting, hm?

= = = = =

Unless you are approaching this article with pre-existing disregard for anything Hitchens might say, if you actually read it all the way through it seems pretty reasonable. (Not that I agree 100% with 100% of it myself.)

Here Hitchens quotes some actual linguists:
One of the innovative developments in the white En­glish of Californians is the use of the discourse-marker ‘I’m like’ or ‘she’s like’ to introduce quoted speech, as in ‘I’m like, where have you been?’ This quotative is particularly useful because it does not require the quote to be of actual speech (as ‘she said’ would, for instance). A shrug, a sigh, or any of a number of expressive sounds as well as speech can follow it.
That doesn't sound drunk or prescriptive or getoffmylawn-ish to me.

As to being classist, it's a classist world, innit? As the Ann Arbor Decision showed, it makes sense to recognize that there's nothing wrong with people speaking as the speech community they grew up in speaks, but at the same time, one key to success in the wider society is the ability to make yourself understood in (some version of) the standard (privileged, if you like) speech of that wider society.
posted by Herodios at 7:44 AM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


As long as we're getting ragey, I'd like to toss "___ gets stuck in my craw" onto the bonfire. I've seen this on three or four different sites and it inexplicably makes me want to break something. I know I'm being silly and out of proportion, especially given my own verbal junk food, but it just leaps out at me as clumsily affected.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:47 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Short version: "Clueless" started it, and the general Californication of the American spoken language.

Valley Girl, Moon Unit Zappa, 1982. Like, everyone knows this.
The difference between Hitchens and us is that we spend the 1980s sober for at least the majority of it, and thus remember the era and it's cultural milestones a lot better.
posted by deanc at 7:49 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


it isn't really spelt "nome sane" is it?

I've never seen this spelling before this FFP, and it seems pretty silly. The pronunciation is just slightly more run together than "Know what I'm saying?"


OHHHH! I was wondering what on earth "nome sane" was -- I couldn't imagine an allegedly commonplace verbal tic that I'd never heard. "Know'm sayin" is a much better transcription.

Pet peeve for me: Incessant substitution of literally for the filler-word-version of "actually." Frequently in ridiculous contrast with the actual meaning of "literally." I don't find this to be an age-specific thing at all; one of the worst offenders I know is in his 60s.
posted by desuetude at 7:49 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


"No!!!" I wanted to scream. "You speak that way and you're a graduate student in linguistics?? (or something like that. Sociology. Who knows.) This must stop!!"

It is quite possible that the person in questions speaks more casually around friends and more formally in a professional setting. Many people are capable of multiple speaking styles appropriate to different contexts.


I think it's a reflexively face-saving social tool, to soften the impression between peers that one knows a lot more than the other about *something*. it keeps the educated one from looking snotty and the ones who don't know that particular thing from looking ignorant.

also, 100+ comments and not one about aaaagh Buckley?

unfortunately this YT is not so long on the aaaahg but has the fortunate inclusion of the "shut up a minute" and "you crypto-Nazi"...
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:49 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Valley Girl definitely started it....

I would RTFA...


If you had RTFA, you would have seen that Hitchens himself notes that it was already "quasi-ironic" by 1969.

----

Christopher Hitchens is a drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay.

That's just, like, your opinion, man.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:53 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Like" is a discourse marker. Every single language has them and they serve multiple functions in conversation, not the least of which is making people like Hitchens look even more like cranky assholes when they pass moral judgment on people who use them.

Indeed it is, sir, indeed it is.

Also, I like, totally favorite fourcheesemac, like, a million, billion times!
posted by DiscourseMarker at 7:53 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I recall a guest speaker reading his text before his audience, while other speakers, on the same general topic, spoke without text. The reader told me later that he had trouble in speaking but relied on his printed text. When not before an audience and not reading text, he was most difficult to listen to. But when reading his prose, he stood heads above the others. He was a great prose stylist. But a terrible speaker without text. Best of all: he knew this and adjusted to it.
posted by Postroad at 7:54 AM on January 20, 2010


But the verbal tic which reduces me to toothgrinding, fistballing, barely contollable rage, in almost every interview of a footballer (cronically inarticulate), it seems, is the dragging out of a vowel over - literally - several seconds ("I don't knooooooooooooooooooooooooooow") to occupy space, prevent interruption and gain time to think of something even faintly interesting to say. I'm not aware of this tic in any other language I'm familiar with.

Oh, but aqsakal, I love it when people (admittedly not calciatori, who I would imagine are as inane as most athletes during post-game interviews) hang on the vowel like that. "Peroooooooooooooo...." It's almost musical. I'm most accustomed to hearing it with a Roman accent, which may be part of why I like it so much.
posted by katemonster at 7:59 AM on January 20, 2010


I experience "know what I mean?" as "are you still listening to me?" because it requires a response.
posted by desjardins at 7:59 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know I'm being silly and out of proportion, especially given my own verbal junk food, but it just leaps out at me as clumsily affected.

The "I know I'm being silly" bit is the universe telling you to chill about the "leaps out at me" bit.
posted by Herodios at 7:59 AM on January 20, 2010


I experience "know what I mean?" as "are you still listening to me?"

Spot on.
posted by Herodios at 8:00 AM on January 20, 2010


Seconding desuetude on "literally" used as a word of emphasis ("We were literally in the middle of nowhere"). Urk.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:06 AM on January 20, 2010


[punctuation][space] : TWO spaces after a sentence. TWO. Not ONE. TWO you fucking heathen.

It was explained to me (but who knows if it's correct) that two spaces was a typewriter-specific rule, because typewriter ink spreads out on the paper more than modern printer ink, and therefore you needed to allow more space between sentences.

At least for book layout, the rule I learned is one space now. Perhaps newspapers still use two, but online, it would not be necessary.

So, you know, like chill and stuff.
posted by emjaybee at 8:06 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't need to use "like." I hardly ever use it in professional settings. When I'm in casual conversations, though, I use it consciously. It's a way of making my speech informal and friendly. It's really an excellent disarming technique if you can use it naturally and sparingly. I recommend trying this if you're the type who can sometimes come across as overly intellectual or analytical.
posted by naju at 8:07 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you know what I am saying?
posted by naju at 8:07 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


fourcheesemac - I can't find the correction, but - noted.

Sorry, should have linked to it.

My "the here coffee" was a typo. I was planning to express the aspectual distinction parenthetically (as I did in the correction) and did, but forgot to erase the earlier attempt to express it directly. I wasn't commenting on phonological features at all. "This here" vs. "This" is also an interesting deictical (indexical) distinction that is indeed also found in AAVE, and which would indeed seem to work harmoniously with the aspectual distinction between stative and punctual forms of the copula; that is, for emphasis, one might indeed want to stress that the cup of coffee that cold (whether or not it always be cold at this here place) by lexicalizing a reference to its indexical proximity (no doubt accompanied by pointed glance or finger), as indeed does the addition of the word "cup."

So I wrote a poem:
The coffee cold.
This coffee cold.
This here coffee cold.
This here cup of coffee cold.
Even that there cup of coffee cold.
It always be cold in this here place.
Do you know what I am saying?

posted by fourcheesemac at 8:09 AM on January 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Herodios, I'm being hyperbolic. As I'm sure most others are with their complaints. It's just conversation.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:10 AM on January 20, 2010


Also, I like, totally favorite fourcheesemac, like, a million, billion times!

Like, literally, a million billion times, literally, ya'mean?
posted by Mister_A at 8:14 AM on January 20, 2010


Ack, I mangled a sentence in there:

"one might . . .want to stress that the cup of coffee that [is] cold by stressing . . . "


So I screw up my own dependent clause marker while discussing its homonymic deictic.

Like, how ironic, amirite?

(Linguist humor. It's an inside thing. )
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:15 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


homophonic!

ba-dum-bum
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:15 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


fourcheesemac I really like the rhythm of that there coffee cold pome. Reminds me of...

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 8:18 AM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


It was explained to me (but who knows if it's correct) that two spaces was a typewriter-specific rule, because typewriter ink spreads out on the paper more than modern printer ink, and therefore you needed to allow more space between sentences.

An amusingly obsessive pedant I know flipped out about this recently, citing your explanation, and telling me there was no reason I should continue to use two spaces after a period when one suffices. But I kinda like the way the two spaces looks! I like that little valley of silence after a thought's been completed. My style guide is like, "That's okay, it's all good."
posted by Greg Nog at 8:18 AM on January 20, 2010


I remember this accurately, and she didn't popularize Val-speak. That Moon Unit girl did.

you know, while I felt the same way at first, lest we forget...
posted by shmegegge at 8:19 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


which is the obscure way of saying that the val-speak thing was a holdover of hippy speak, and Casey Casem is, like, the original moon unit zappa.
posted by shmegegge at 8:20 AM on January 20, 2010


So later, I'm at the poolhall.
And this girl comes up and she's all like, awww.
And I'm like, yeah, whatever.
posted by the jam at 8:23 AM on January 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


The English language sure does love to talk about itself.

But if that goes too far-- and it does seem to incorporate a very worrying level of positive feedback-- it would be catastrophic. And in general, any aspect of language which battens upon itself is a danger of this kind.

Are there any built-in features of English which could protect against this? If there aren't already, I think we're going to have to come up with some.

Prescriptivism in general may be one such feature. If, when you talk about language you spend most of your time attacking common usages and pruning them back, perhaps you are doing more to curb destructive overgrowth than promote it, although in Hitchen's case this seems very doubtful.
posted by jamjam at 8:27 AM on January 20, 2010


I know, right?
posted by Sailormom at 8:30 AM on January 20, 2010


It might be worth crediting Gwendolyn Brooks, the author of "We Real Cool," when reproducing the poem.
posted by aught at 8:31 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I was in Hawaii in the mid-eighties I noticed the kids there peppered their speech with "da kine" instead of "like".

It was just as annoying.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:31 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The English language sure does love to talk about itself.

All over Paris Metro they had these posters for an Art Nouevu Revival Show, which amused me to no end. "Rebirth Of The New Art!", it's like a koan.
posted by The Whelk at 8:33 AM on January 20, 2010


I can't believe no one's mentioned Maynard G. Krebs. I'm getting old.
posted by JanetLand at 8:33 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


One interesting thing that I have found is that if you maintain an even and level tone when talking with someone who is prone to "uptalking" then fairly soon into the conversation they will calm down and not end their statements with uptalk as frequently.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:34 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The reason for two spaces after a period is not that typewriter ink spreads out more than other inks. (If that were the case, wouldn't there be two spaces after every word?) Traditional typesetting uses a wider space at the end of a sentence than between words; "two spaces after a period" is an approximation of this that's useful when all your characters take up the same width, as they do on typewriters.

Or at least, that's the explanation I always heard.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:38 AM on January 20, 2010


I could give a crap about people using "like." But you know what makes my blood boil? "Just sayin'" Oh, if I could just reach out and smack people whenever they said that.

NOTE TO THE HUMAN RACE : Whenever you say "Just sayin'," there's a 90% chance that whatever you said immediately preceding it was something incredibly dickish and unacceptable.

It's like a 9-year-old who discovers the phrase "just kidding," and thinks they can say whatever mean, poisonous crap they want as long as they follow it with a "Just kidding." PEOPLE, I QUIT DOING THAT IN THE THIRD GRADE, OKAY? GET A BRAIN ALREADY, JEEZ.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:43 AM on January 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


You seem irrationally angry. Just saying.
posted by found missing at 8:48 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ever cringing at the idea of sounding like a valley girl, I've always tried to avoid "like" and others, with varying degrees of success & failure.

Have been guilty of "yeah, no" for 20 years, though. I always used it sarcastically, but I'm not sure that makes it any better. Well-reinforced by the friends who thought it was funny, & started using it themselves...

Imagine my joy, then, when the going slang in Russia 10+ years ago was "da nyet", meaning a more voracious form of 'no', or even "no fucking way!". Still get a lot of mileage out of that one...
posted by East Siberian patchbelly wrangler at 8:49 AM on January 20, 2010


My brother and I were talking about this a while ago. I'd heard a linguist of some sort (I think she was a sociologist as well, perhaps) discussing it on the radio, and was adamant that it was just the equivalent of saying 'um', but I'm not convinced.

I think it has as much to do with young people not wanting to state anything as fact; that by saying like before stating anything it adds that hint of ambiguity to what they're saying, making it sound more like opinion than fact.
But that's just, like, my opinion.

Interestingly sport has come up with it's own, and is sort of the exact opposite, in the form of 'for sure'. F1 drivers and team members are the worst for it, but I've seen footballers coming out with more recently. They seem damned sure of everything, unlike these kids of today.
posted by opsin at 8:51 AM on January 20, 2010


All you two-spaces-after-a-period proponents realize that web browsers collapse multiple spaces into a single space anway, unless you use something like &nbsp; or <pre> or something else special, right?

I type two spaces after a period because that's how I learned to type on a manual typewriter, and it's not worth the effort to break the habit, but I'm under no illusion that it's rendered any differently than a single space on the web.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:51 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


You seem irrationally angry. Just saying.

It's more of a manifesto, though "just sayin" is pretty dang annoying.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:53 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Confirming that "valley speak" was already in full swing in the late '70's and early '80s in Southern California. Regional speech pattern gone meta.

Regarding "like", I'm usually pretty immune to it, but at a recent conference, one younger attendee, while asking his question of a panelist, used it no less than 44 times while making his statement.

All I remember after the red fog cleared from my vision is "bzzzzzzzzzz like bzzzzzzzzz like like bzzzzzzzzz like, you know, zbzzzzzzzzz, like, bzzzzzzzzzzzzz like bzzzzzzzzzzzzz hmmmmmmmm like bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz bzzzzzzzzzzz like, you know, bzzzzzzzzz like" etc etc etc.

There's definitely a point at which the idiom becomes the idiot.
posted by Aquaman at 8:54 AM on January 20, 2010


Also, two spaces is correct. All you other space-haters are a bunch of jerks.
posted by Aquaman at 8:56 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm going with 1983 as the tipping point cause I remember my Mom's friends (my babysitters) being, like totally into the Valley Girl thing you know

The use of many those "valley girl" terms were considered to be linguistic markers of the Beats. Ever listen to the novelty tune "Alley Oop"? It was written in 1957 (recorded in 1960), and the singer, mimicking hipster-speak of the time says, "like, hipsville".

On a personal note, my friends and I all used "like" and "I'm all..." and "so I go..." in the '70's in the Bay Area. It wasn't unusual.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:56 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I went to an event a few years ago that was held at the French embassy in Washington, D.C. Walking in, I passed by two women who were having a conversation in French. One of the women began a sentence with, "Et j'etais comme," which marked the first time I ever considered that "And I was like" might get borrowed by other languages.
posted by emelenjr at 8:58 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh fun! Hitchens like totes missed the boat, y'know?

I just finished a paper on the use of "I know, right?"* in mainstream discourse. A lot of my background research involved the prior literature on 'like' and 'you know'. Here are some relevant articles on the topic, if anybody wants to delve into discourse marker fun!
  • Agnes Weyun He, L., B. (1998). “You know” as an information status enhancing device: Arguments from grammar and interaction. Functions of Language. 5 (2), 133-156.
  • Athanasiadou, A. (2007). On the subjectivity of intensifiers. Language Sciences. 29 (4), 554.
  • Bryant, G. A., & Fox Tree, J. E. (2005). Is there an Ironic Tone of Voice? Language and Speech. 48 (3), 257.
  • Facebook. (2000s). People who LOVE to say “I know right”!!!!
  • Fitzmaurice, S. (2004). Subjectivity, intersubjectivity and the historical construction of interlocutor stance: from stance markers to discourse markers. Discourse Studies. 6 (4), 427-448.
  • Fox Tree, J. E., & Schrock, J. C. (2002). Basic meanings of you know and I mean. Journal of Pragmatics. 34 (6), 727.
  • Fox Tree, J. E. (2007). Folk notions of um and uh, you know, and like. Text. 27 (3), 297-314.
  • Fuller, J. M. (2003). The influence of speaker roles on discourse marker use. Journal of Pragmatics. 35 (1), 23.
  • Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and conversation. The William James Lectures, 1966-1967. Speech Acts. 41-58.
  • Ito, R., & Tagliamonte, S. (2003). Well weird, right dodgy, very strange, really cool: Layering and recycling in English intensifiers. Language in Society. 32 (2), 257-279.
  • Macaulay, R. (2002). You know, it depends. Journal of Pragmatics. 34 (6), 749.
  • Mâendez Naya, B. (2006). Adjunct, modifier, discourse marker: On the various functions of right in the history of English. Folia Linguistica Historica. 27 (1-2), 141-170.
  • Schegloff, E. A., & Sacks, H. (1969). Opening up Closings. Ft. Belvoir: Defense Technical Information Center.
  • Schiffrin, D. (1987). Discourse markers. Studies in interactional sociolinguistics, 5. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]: Cambridge University Press.
  • Simon-Vandenbergen, A.-M. (2008). Almost certainly and most definitely: Degree modifiers and epistemic stance. Journal of Pragmatics. 40 (9), 1521.
  • Tagliamonte, S., & Roberts, C. (2005). So Weird; So Cool; So Innovative: The Use of Intensifiers in the Television Series Friends. American Speech. 80 (3), 280-300.
  • Urban dictionary. (2003). I know, right?
  • Waksler, R. (2001). A New All In Conversation. American Speech. 76 (2), 128-138.
  • YouTube Broadcast yourself. (2008). “I know, right?”.
This is just a sampling of some of the articles out there. You may have a hard time accessing them without a university or other some such login, but some of the articles can be found through a google search. I don't have time to link everything accessible here, but you get the idea. fourcheesmac and DiscourseMarker have also provided some great links to check out.

*I even used MetaFilter as a text corpus to add to the speech dataset and found over 2,680 viable instances of "I know, right?" on this here site.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:01 AM on January 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


The actual meaning of filler words is less important than it's use as a subcultural identifier. People use them more fragrantly when it's about being in a subgroup and showing off, and much less when they're going across groups (trying to get a job, etc.). Exception: teens defying parents- then they use it all the time, again, to push the differences.
posted by yeloson at 9:02 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ugh. "Flagrantly" (le sigh, morning posting).
posted by yeloson at 9:03 AM on January 20, 2010


Fourcheesemac - I know what you're saying. Sorry for picking on you about a typo. I ain't mean it like that. We good.
posted by nangar at 9:09 AM on January 20, 2010


"Innit" is also very, very common among American Indians (feather, not dot), and I doubt this has to do with Hindi or cockney.

Also, this thread is neat.
posted by streetdreams at 9:11 AM on January 20, 2010


After reading this thread, I've realized that 90% of my speech consists of a slurry of verbal
tics mangled by a thick Southern accent and peppered with profanity.

And I am OK with that.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:12 AM on January 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


Which is why we love you.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:14 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Canadians say 'actually' in almost every sentence

Once upon a time, My friends and I ate at a Chinese food place in downtown Montreal. The waitress asked us what we would like to drink. My friend replied with "Actually, do you have ginger ale, actually?". He seemed unaware of what he'd done* until she went away and I bugged him about it."Actually, do you actually have actual ginger ale, actually?" In that group of friends, you couldn't safely use "actually" again without someone reiterating whatever you were saying, throwing in two or three more.


*Obviously, he was using the two 'actually's differently, one for changing his mind about what he was about to order, and once to indicate his hope of confirmation from the waitress.
posted by ServSci at 9:24 AM on January 20, 2010


Don't say 'totally' say 'completely'.....please!
posted by xjudson at 9:24 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great thread. One of the things I loved about living in Baltimore was the dynamism of the discourse markers. There were constantly new stylish words and phrases popping up in speech, some of which had some abstruse meaning (not unlike cockney rhyming slang, I guess), but most of which were pure filler. You could understand most of this from the context- it rarely obscured the meaning of the sentence.

There's an interview with the guy who played Bodie on The Wire where he talks about how difficult it was to keep up with the language to make the show as current as possible, especially when they were producing episodes so far in advance of when they aired.

My current pet peeve is politicians who begin every answer (in an interview) with "Look." I'm looking at you Mr. President.
posted by GodricVT at 9:25 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]




I could give a crap about people using "like." But you know what makes my blood boil? "Just sayin'" Oh, if I could just reach out and smack people whenever they said that.

NOTE TO THE HUMAN RACE : Whenever you say "Just sayin'," there's a 90% chance that whatever you said immediately preceding it was something incredibly dickish and unacceptable.

It's like a 9-year-old who discovers the phrase "just kidding," and thinks they can say whatever mean, poisonous crap they want as long as they follow it with a "Just kidding." PEOPLE, I QUIT DOING THAT IN THE THIRD GRADE, OKAY? GET A BRAIN ALREADY, JEEZ.


u mad lol
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:28 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


> I type two spaces after a period because that's how I learned to type on a manual typewriter, and it's not worth the effort to break the habit

I learned how to type on a manual typewriter, and completed a typing class back when they were conducted on real typewriters.

Typing two spaces after a period was a habit as easy to break as that of typing lowercase l and uppercase O for ones and zeros, or of typing a tickmark ('), backspacing, and typing a period (.) for an exclamation point. I don't hit the carriage return at the end of every line either.
posted by ardgedee at 9:28 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pet peeve for me: Incessant substitution of literally for the filler-word-version of "actually." Frequently in ridiculous contrast with the actual meaning of "literally." I don't find this to be an age-specific thing at all; one of the worst offenders I know is in his 60s.

Another big offender of this is Alexander Pope. (3b, the 1708 reference. No idea why the word "improperly" appears under 3b's definition since we've been using it this way for at least 300 years.)
posted by DU at 9:35 AM on January 20, 2010


Like, Hamlet's famous soliloquy. Like, rewritten specially for, like, Keanu Reeves. With, like, meter intact:

To be, or not to be: that's, like, the question.
Whether 'tis best in the mind to, like, suffer
Like... slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to, like, arm against, like, seas of troubles,
And by, like, thwarting end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep be like "We end
The heart-aches and, like, thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis like consummation
Like... strongly to be wish'd." To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: like, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death, like, what dreams come
When, like, we've shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must, like, give pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of, like, long life;
For who'd, like, bear, like... whips and scorns of time,
Like... oppressor's wrongs, like... proud men's contumely,
Like... pangs of despised love, like... law's delay,
Like... insolence of office and, like, spurns
That patient merit of, like, th'unworthy takes,
When he, like, might his quietus, like, make
With a bare bodkin? who'd, like, fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a tired, like, life,
But that, like, dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from, like, where
No tourist, like, returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear, like, ills we have
Than fly to others that, like, we don't know?
Thus conscience, like, makes cowards of us all;
And, like, the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with, like, pale casts of thought,
And enterprises of, like, pith and moment
With this regard their currents, like, turn back,
And lose the name of action. - Like, hush, dude!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy, like, prayers
Like, be all sins recall'd.
posted by grumblebee at 9:37 AM on January 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


My favorite is passing by a filler conversation ... "so, like, I was all, like, ..."

the mildly authoritarian who want to make themselves un-interruptible

Which is ridiculously effective, btw.

I once had a copyeditor who changed all of my "like"s to "such as"s. I dunno 'bout that ...

Around my workplace, it seems to have replaced the throwaway "well".

Agreed. "So ..." is the new "I have absolutely nothing to say, but you expect a response, so ..."

-- : It's fucking m-dash, OK? Not two hyphens. ONE FUCKING M-DASH—with no spaces surrounding.

No, it's not, it's fucking em-dash, meaning a dash the length of one "em" (meaning "equal M," so you're not far off)

Also, typographers have for countless years marked em-dashes for the printers by using, you guessed it, two hyphens. Cut the plebes a little slack for not memorizing code #8212 yet.

Also, with the advent of the Internet, online publishers often decided to add spaces before and after the em-dash, to avoid awkward line breaks (as though people online ever cared about line breaks). It was probably a silly decision, but the practice still persists in parts.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:38 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can deal with a lot of verbal tics, but people who speak in uptalk? Should be stabbed in the face with a fork? The person in the cube next to me speaks in uptalk all day on the phone. My iPod keeps me out of jail.
posted by desjardins at 9:43 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


"What, are you from the department of know'm sayin's? You takin' a know'm census?"

I like this thread! I'm going to be uncomfortable and self-conscious about my filler words for the next few days.
posted by bewilderbeast at 9:45 AM on January 20, 2010


Well, shit, I don't know what the point of replying is when this thread already has 200 comments... but I do know that I got EXTREMELY attentive about my personal use of (1) expletives and (2) verbal filler during the several years I spent as an on-air personality back in the 1990s. I imposed a crash course on myself to cut them out. Interestingly I noticed that by replacing the filler with pauses I came across as more studious and authoritative. The only problem with this is conversing with asshats who take any pause as a cue to interrupt, and that is an issue from time to time.
posted by crapmatic at 9:46 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Language is a living thing, please don't try to kill it.
posted by tommasz at 9:50 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


One more thing...Norma Mendoza-Denton, quoted in the FPP article, wrote an excellent book, Homegirls: Language and Cultural Practice Among Latina Youth Gangs, which frequently journeys into the social meaning and use of discourse markers.

It's probably my favorite sociolinguistics book. It is written like a novel, and geared towards a variety of audiences. Some reviews on Amazon:
    Part reflexive narrative, part engaging ethnography, part fine-grained sociolinguistic study, and part riveting disquisition on the politics of eyeliner, this delightful book twinkles with wit and blazes with empathy and intelligence. Don Kulick, New York University Wonderfully written and as riveting as a novel, Homegirls provides a unique window on the linguistic and ethnographic patterns – and their interrelationship – of Northern California Mexican-American high school students who are members of girl gangs. It's sure to become a classic. Deborah Tannen, Georgetown University Mendoza-Denton provides an extraordinary fusion of ethnographic insight and sociolinguistic analysis. I know of no better demonstration of how linguistic and cultural variables are entwined in social interaction. William Labov, University of Pennsylvania
posted by iamkimiam at 9:51 AM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I once had a copyeditor who changed all of my "like"s to "such as"s.

A while back, the transgression that I noticed I was most guilty of (in my Metafilter comments at least) was "I mean". So I took some time to think it through and realized the correct wording was "that is", or just a simple "ie:" ...

That is, when I've made some declaratory statement which I realize requires some kind of back up and/or illustration, there's nothing like a simple "ie:" to get you there (ie: without breaking any of the grammar laws Mrs. Tingey drilled into me in Grade 9, or was it Mr. Croll in Grade 11?).
posted by philip-random at 9:52 AM on January 20, 2010


Language is a living thing, please don't try to kill it.

No death involved here. Often, pruning a few branches is good for the overall health of the tree. And, a man is more likely to initially attract a mate if he attends to trimming nose hairs and fingernails.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:54 AM on January 20, 2010


Alas, "Also" means "thus," or "therefore," in German. But it means "In addition" or "on the other hand" in English.

I speak German, I've been known to pull this little tic out in English, too. However, living with an Indonesian taught me the amazing powers of the word "terus" (sp?) -- it's a kind of general "And then....?" you can insert, whether you're telling or hearing a story. I love that word. The only things I know in Indonesian are "terus" and "you're a total slut" (literally: you have an itchy clitoris).

I would be of no use in Indonesia whatsoever unless someone slutty was trying to tell me a story.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:56 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Don't say 'totally' say 'completely'.....please!

I completely overuse both totally and completely. I tried absolutely for awhile, after a friend in school talked about an interview he had had for a very good job. At the end the interviewer was all "You say the word absolutely a lot, don't you?" and he reponded, with a calm, almost bored and disdainful yet firm confidence, and not in the slightest bit annoyed or insulted, not even a hint of joking (or even kidding on the square), "Absolutely." And he got the job. Anyhow, I try to mix them all up evenly.

Speaking of other language fillers, I absolutely cannot stand the Spanish "pues, eso" or "pues, si". Filler sentences used in place of actual conversation, similar to the "So...." mentioned above.
posted by molecicco at 9:58 AM on January 20, 2010


The word "actually" tends to be a tic for me -- but strangely, only when I'm writing. I don't seem to use it when I'm speaking.

I used to use "basically" a lot too, but don't any more. I think I go through phases.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:00 AM on January 20, 2010


I could use a better substitute for "with regards to". I think I abuse that one quite a bit.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:01 AM on January 20, 2010


Also, I've noticed from watching "The Trailer Park Boys" that Canadians like to use the word F**K as a filler word ;)

Only really in the east, especially Canadiens, for some of whom it's not filler but a postscript: "I'm tired fuuuucccccck."
posted by Beardman at 10:06 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a linguist, I only have two things to say:

1) Even more than the waterboarding, I recall Hitchens as the guy that, like, waxed his nutsack a few years back (I know, right?).

2) fourcheesemac and iamkimiam are [ɹɛpɹi'zɛʔɪn] in this thread.
posted by tractorfeed at 10:08 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Like" is so, like, 2000. "Whatever" is the word of the 2010s or whatever.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:08 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I could use a better substitute for "with regards to"."

How about holding up your left hand, as if showcasing a document or thing...then, with your right arm, make a sweeping half-circle motion, stopping when your right hand meets the left hand, and finishing with the right hand/fingers in a pointing position. As if to say, "This."

For extra emphasis, be sure to grin, with both upper and lower teeth showing. And eye-twinkle if you can manage it.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:11 AM on January 20, 2010


Thanks, but I meant in print.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:16 AM on January 20, 2010


I don't hit the carriage return at the end of every line either.

Ah crap, so that's why my keyboard keeps flying off my desk.
posted by desjardins at 10:16 AM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I went to high school in the late 70s in Orange County, CA, and I remember "like" and "he's all" and uptalking in conversations then.

What confused me was moving to the Bay Area in the early 80s and hearing "hella" for the first time. Someone told me it was a Berkeley High thing, though I suspect not.

As a 19-year-old, it made me feel really old and out of it.

Of course, now my British husband loves to drop cockney rhyming slang into the conversation, just to confuse me. "I haven't a scooby, mate."

SPEAK ENGLISH, BRITISH BOI!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:21 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


What confused me was moving to the Bay Area in the early 80s and hearing "hella" for the first time. Someone told me it was a Berkeley High thing, though I suspect not.

Interesting. I knew a few people who had picked up usage of "hella" after their first year at UCB.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:24 AM on January 20, 2010


Typing two spaces after a period was a habit as easy to break...

When I said it "wasn't worth the effort" to break the habit, I didn't mean it would be hard to break the habit, I meant it wasn't worth the effort to break the habit. The effort might be minimal, but the effort of typing an extra space out of habit, even knowing it makes no difference to display on web pages, is orders of magnitude smaller still.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:31 AM on January 20, 2010


Getting in on this late, but has anyone mentioned the instant annoyance beginning an observation with "here's the thing..." incurs?
posted by squeakyfromme at 10:34 AM on January 20, 2010


I could use a better substitute for "with regards to". I think I abuse that one quite a bit.

I'm not sure there's a one-size-fits-all substitute for that; it depends on the context. "With regards to [X], ..." can sometimes be left out entirely if [X] is obvious from context. Other times [X] can be worked into the body of the sentence; exactly how will vary.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:37 AM on January 20, 2010


I don't mind the "here's the thing," but when somebody says "... the reality is:"
... oh, man. I hate, hate, hate it.
posted by Auden at 10:43 AM on January 20, 2010


I experience "know what I mean?" as "are you still listening to me?" because it requires a response.

My sister has a tendency to append "do you know that?" to a sentence in the same way. I haven't heard this from anyone else so I'm not claiming it's some nascent linguistic quirk rather than her personal quirk, just an observation. Even though I know full well she really means "hey, are you still listening to me?" when she says "do you know that?" I still like to tease her by responding "I do now."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:43 AM on January 20, 2010


At least for book layout, the rule I learned is one space now. Perhaps newspapers still use two, but online, it would not be necessary.

A late response, but I first learned to drop the two-space convention in my journalism classes. The extra space is considered unnecessary filler.

I'm loving this discussion, I now see how much verbal fluff I use, even in writing.
posted by inmediasres at 10:43 AM on January 20, 2010


"Whatever" is the word of the 2010s or whatever.

Since shortened to "wev". Kids these days, can't be bothered to use more than one syllable, grumble...
posted by emjaybee at 10:49 AM on January 20, 2010


Cut the plebes a little slack for not memorizing code #8212 yet.

Thanks for that. I know it IS an em-dash, but I don't know how to type an em-dash. I'm still not 100% sure how that works. Like, totally, y'know what I'm sayin'?
posted by misha at 11:01 AM on January 20, 2010


Reviewing my gripes in this thread, I guess I'm not as easy like Sunday morning as I thought.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:03 AM on January 20, 2010


Oh man, the Eastern Canadian postscript of "fuck" really threw me off when I moved from BC to Ontario.

"It's cold, fuck"
"I could really go for some pizza, fuck."
"Yeah, we drank a whole two-four over the weekend, fuck".

I kept expecting people to continue the sentence, but no, the fuck just lingers there at the end.

However, this takes on an EXTREME version in an area just south of Ottawa, where people tend to greet each other (similarly to Australians) with "G'day". Now, people here do that "dangling fuck" thing so much, that it is very common to walk into the diner and say "G'day, fuck!". This greeting is so common and overused, in fact, that on occasion you will hear the real-deal locals greeting each other with a "Gdayfuck, fuck!" Ridiculous.
posted by molecicco at 11:04 AM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


It also happens in Spanish, where people say "como", which means exactly the same as "like"
posted by FumarMata at 11:10 AM on January 20, 2010


On the wevs abbrevs thing...I just attended a great presentation about this at the American Dialect Society's annual meeting 2 weeks ago. It was titled "Abbrevs is totes the lang of the fuche," presented by Rebecca Starr (Tulane University), abstract here [pdf]. The author of this article write-up about Starr's presentation and abbrevs writes:
    "Starr has noticed three abbreviation patterns. Users tended to cut their words off at a stressed syllable, to add an s to the end, and, finally, to add diminutives—endings that convey a sense of smallness or endearment. Whatever becomes whatev, whatevs, and whatevskies. “A lot of times people assume that slang is about being lazy, but that really makes no sense,” says Starr. “If it’s about laziness, then why would you be adding extra stuff on?” Instead, Starr believes that abbrevs might be an attempt by users only to portray laziness or to mock the apparently lazy around them. “I think most people are using them ironically,” she says. “They like that the words have this vapid, Internet slang feel.” She compares abbrevs use to other social trends. “If you ask people why they wear skinny jeans, they’ll probably tell you that it’s because they like the way they look,” she says. “But in reality, they are wearing skinny jeans because of their social meaning—they are fashionable, and fashionable people wear them.”"
posted by iamkimiam at 11:15 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, second time this has happened...why does the [ul] tag not preserve paragraph breaks!? It does in preview, what gives? Somebody learn me this, please.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:16 AM on January 20, 2010


"Unaware of what year it was, Joe wandered the streets desperate for help. But the English language had deteriorated into a hybrid of hillbilly, valleygirl, inner-city slang and various grunts. Joe was able to understand them, but when he spoke in an ordinary voice he sounded pompous and faggy to them."
posted by pianomover at 11:38 AM on January 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oddly, the intended paragraph breaks do show up on the Recent Activity page, but not in the thread itself. That said, <ul> should not be used simply to indent text; it begins an unordered list (i.e., a bulleted list, not a numbered list) and is supposed to be used in conjunction with the <li> tag which begins each individual item in the list. Use the <blockquote> tag if you simply want to indent quotations.
  • This is what an unordered list is supposed to look like, using the <li> tag at the start of each item
  • Another item in the unordered list
  • Yet another item
  1. Just for comparison, here is an ordered list, which uses <ol> instead of <ul>.
  2. It uses <li> in the same way as an unordered list.
  3. The way each <li> item in a list is displayed depends on whether it falls within a <ul> tag or a <ol> tag.
This is text set off by the <blockquote> tag.

Note that paragraph breaks are preserved as intended.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:41 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anyone else watch last night's "How I Met Your Mother" with the "but um" drinking game?
posted by kylej at 11:41 AM on January 20, 2010


One of my big chalksqueakers is the double "is", as in "The thing is, is that..."

It's right up there with "kindler, gentler" and "eck cetera".
posted by Crane Shot at 11:46 AM on January 20, 2010


Wow, I've never heard "kindler, gentler". That's painful.
posted by inmediasres at 11:50 AM on January 20, 2010


Your comment about abbrevs reminds me of Amanda in "Ugly Betty": "Whatevz", "Per yoozj", iamkimiam...
posted by NekulturnY at 11:50 AM on January 20, 2010


"Innit?" is a widespread phonological reduction of "isn't it?" -- found in many dialects of English. It's an elision; it assimilates a difficult consonant cluster to an easy vocalic nucleus interrupted by a brief nasal (but continuant) that requires very little effort to say. Since it's formulaic, the reduction in information represented by the elision doesn't harm intelligibility.

(Ax.Metathesisfilter.Com)
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:58 AM on January 20, 2010


Also, isn't it amazing how many linguists are MeFites, or vice versa? I swear it's like a meeting of the SLA around here. Represent, indeed!
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:59 AM on January 20, 2010


LSA, jeez, talk about metathesis.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:59 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone else watch last night's "How I Met Your Mother" with the "but um" drinking game?

Yes, and the megaphone ending made me laugh well into the credits.

I was wondering when that was going to pop up in the thread...
posted by flaterik at 12:01 PM on January 20, 2010


desuetude : I was wondering what on earth "nome sane" was -- I couldn't imagine an allegedly commonplace verbal tic that I'd never heard. "Know'm sayin" is a much better transcription.

I agree. It took me two or three reads of the phrase to parse it to the expression heard by the minute in my workplace.

Auden : I didn't want to sound like South Park's Butters and continually reply YES, I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE SAYING,

One of my good friends has this verbal tic and it comes out more and more as he gets excited when telling a story.

"So we got in the car, knowhatI'msayin', and the roads were really icy, and we're slipping all over the place, knowhatI'msayin' and by blind luck, we spun out but managed to miss every other car, it was crazy knowhatI'msayin'?"

And I just couldn't help it, as his story progressed I went from nodding, to affirming with a "uh huh", to "yep" and by the end I was using the Butters voice "Yes. I know what you are saying." with a careful enunciation on each word.

Being wrapped up in his story, it took him a minute to catch on, and when he did and connected it with the words he didn't even realize he was saying, his response was just a slow grin and a grumbled "Fucker."

I also just had the misfortune of going through a training class the day after I watch the episode of How I Met Your Mother where they turned one of the characters tics "but, um..." into a drinking game. Our facilitator used "and whatnot" as a sort of mental punctuation, and I probably wouldn't have even heard it were I not thinking of the joke from the night earlier. Unfortunately once I did hear it, I couldn't stop counting.

Had I been trying to match her shot for phrase, I'd be dead; 15 times per hour. For four hours.

I'm sure I've a whole collection of these tics, I just haven't had them pointed out to me yet. But based on my past behavior, I'll probably deserve every bad thing my friends do to me.
posted by quin at 12:12 PM on January 20, 2010


"Like" has been around for a while. I mostly hear it in use as a verbal crutch employed much the same as "um" or "er". I try to avoid this, and was pleased to be informed that my dissertation defense didn't feature a single filler word. Stop, think, speak. It usually works.

My current pet peeve: I've noticed a fair number of people saying "fustrated" instead of "frustrated". Where did that come from? There are always others - the misuse of 'literally', the uptalk, the incredibly annoying spread of texting abbreviations into common use elsewhere*, but I haven't yet heard anyone else complaining about "fustrated". Maybe it's just me.

*I received a college homework assignment once in which the student used "u" rather than "you". I returned it with a note stating that if students didn't care enough about the points to bother to type out a three letter word, I wasn't going to bother grading it.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:21 PM on January 20, 2010




nome sane

Unlike that crazy one in the Travelocity commercials?
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 12:32 PM on January 20, 2010


So does no one else hear "ya'mean" on a regular basis? I guess I really am cooler than all y'all.
posted by Mister_A at 12:37 PM on January 20, 2010


Nobody linked this yet? Frsrs?
posted by rifflesby at 12:42 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Christopher Hitchens is a drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay."

dunkadunc: if you're going to use somebody else's words, at least attribute them to their original speakers instead of passing them off as your own. That's from George Galloway.

By the way, before I read any of the replies I guessed what percentage would be ad hominem attacks against Hitchens for drinking too much and I was very nearly right!
posted by inoculatedcities at 12:48 PM on January 20, 2010


I didn't see it mentioned here, but I think various phrases such as "know what I'm saying?", "well, basically", and "in reality" are fine, even informative, if used correctly. Even "um" has its use as a stop-gap. The problem is when they're abused, used out of context as subconscious tics to extent that they lose most, if not all of their meaning.

For example, if you're explaining a difficult concept to somebody, it's a Good Thing to ask "You know what I mean?" after a few sentences, just to confirm that they actually did understand what you just said. It gives them an opportunity to confirm say "No, I don't get it." It provides a feedback loop for the information transfer. But if you're saying "You know what I mean?" after every other sentence in every conversation, it doesn't add any information beyond, of course, being a cultural/social statement.

Actually, any phrase or word, used repeatedly (compulsively?), gets on my nerves. It's okay to use "totally", "completely", "absolutely", and "definitely" -- just rotate between them, please.
posted by LordSludge at 12:51 PM on January 20, 2010


Of course, what Hitchens is doing is confusing spoken discourse with written discourse. There's a very large distinction between them...or there should be, and if he wasn't an asshole, he'd understand it.

My French is very, very poor, but something I've noted when watching movies is that I can understand the interviews that get packed into DVDs as extras much better than I can understand the dialogue in films. That's because scripted dialogue is actually written discourse being spoken, whereas an interview is genuine spoken discourse.

On the matter of upspeak, I don't mind it in normal conversation, but I've noted that there are some younger people who use it in public speaking, and in that circumstance, it tends to undermine their message. In public speech, you are generally giving information that you are fairly certain of, but upspeech gives the exact opposite effect.

with meter intact Sometimes that's the function of filler words, to maintain the flow/meter of the words, and it's done instinctively.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:53 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Speaking of other language fillers, I absolutely cannot stand the Spanish "pues, eso" or "pues, si". Filler sentences used in place of actual conversation, similar to the "So...." mentioned above.

Except that it's not "in place of actual conversation," it IS actual conversation. Discourse markers like "so" convey pragmatic meaning in the ongoing course of conversation. But don't just take my word for it, Galina Bolden wrote 1/2 of a 600-page dissertation just on the uses of "so" in English.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:58 PM on January 20, 2010


Ax.Metathesisfilter.Com

brilliant


posted by heyforfour at 12:59 PM on January 20, 2010


My grandmother tried to eradicate "like" from my vocabulary so I wouldn't come off as stupid, and I guess it worked ok... little did she know that I would then move to Rhode Island and pick up the local custom of peppering my sentences with the adjective "wicked," which really sounds a lot dumber. Sorry, Nana.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:02 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


My current pet peeve is politicians who begin every answer (in an interview) with "Look." I'm looking at you Mr. President.

There's also the sentential prefix "Make no mistake" that Mr. Obama is pretty fond of. It doesn't particularly bother me, but it does seem a little bit demanding.

I love this thread.
posted by kingbenny at 1:15 PM on January 20, 2010


Everyone in my New York suburban high school was using like back in the early 1970s. I remember picking it up consciously, knowing it would drive my mother crazy.
posted by anshuman at 1:27 PM on January 20, 2010


You know, now that I think about it, I might have a verbal/ written tic after all; "fucking." I mean, I use "fucking" pretty fucking often.

It's sort of my go-to word.

Probably because it's so fucking useful.
posted by quin at 1:41 PM on January 20, 2010


"Gag me with a spoon," however, never really took off. Ironic that Hitchens cites Clueless as being the starting point...
posted by Chuffy at 1:48 PM on January 20, 2010




I use "fucking" pretty fucking often.

A coworker of mine recently commented: "I'm from the Quentin Tarantino generation. To me, 'fuck' is a comma."
posted by rifflesby at 1:55 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I say "like" a lot, but I'm conscious of it every time I use it (I think). And I've never seen Clueless. And I'm like, old.

I use it as a way to indicate that what I'm about to say is not necessarily completely accurately described, and perhaps, like, a bit vague.

I even use it in social emails and IM text.

"He said 'Bring me a shrubbery'" means he said exactly that.

"He was like 'Bring me a shrubbery'" means that's what I recall him saying, although I'm not 100% sure those were his exact words.

Having said that, I do get very annoyed listening to teenage girls who like... excessively use it, like... several times per sentence, and like ... I'm pretty sure for them, they are using it as ... like... a filler word.

Having just watched Office Space again, I am planning to start using "Yeah, I'm gonna have to get you to go ahead and [do something]"
posted by Diag at 1:56 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I use it as a way to indicate that what I'm about to say is not necessarily completely accurately described, and perhaps, like, a bit vague.

I think this is what the purists object to. There's a word for that: paraphrase.

I'm in agreement, though. You can say a whole lot by altering inflection and inflection is a highly underrated (and critical) aspect of casual speech.
posted by jimmythefish at 2:05 PM on January 20, 2010


Can someone save my sanity - it isn't really spelt "nome sane" is it?

No, it isn't.
Exhibit A: The Herbaliser feat. Jean Grae - Nah'mean Nah'm Sayin'
Exhibit B: Urban Dictionary - nahmsayin

So: nahmsayin'/nahmsayin, mainly; nahmsayn also occurs, as does the occasional nahmsane.

In local reporting, the Italian "cioè" has had teen/general success similar to "like", albeit a little less virulently. And, the initiating "Si, no, ..." is very common, and similarly employed.
posted by progosk at 2:11 PM on January 20, 2010


While this thread has the linguists' attention:

Is there a term for Obama's manner of speaking? It's like the opposite of uptalk; a statement seems to decrease in intensity at the end (but not trail off).

For example, in a public speech he might say something like "The time is right for healthcare reform" where "reform" is said in a different tone of voice and sort of drops off the end of the sentence. (I made up this quote, btw.) He doesn't seem to do this in interviews or press conferences.

I'm at work so I can't find good video of this; but, like, does anyone know what I mean, yo?
posted by desjardins at 2:32 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


it isn't really spelt "nome sane" is it

There's no orthography for slang elisions, especially since the particular pronunciation will vary depending on who is speaking.

It's really spelled "Do you know what I am saying?"
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:56 PM on January 20, 2010


What you're talking about is just one feature of the poetics of his speech style. Obama tends to have very patterned intonational rises and falls that correspond with both the semantic content and the syntactic structure of what he's saying. If you look at a transcription of just about any speech of his, you can see dyads or triads of word pairs, repeating syntactic elements, discourse marker cues, a building theme, intonational resets, and all sorts of other things. They all pattern together and crossover at various points of discourse, from the individual sound or word, to ideas and sentences, and finally paragraphs and overall framing.

We all do this to some extent, but Obama's speeches are particularly tight in natural, cohesive structure. There's no one way to describe what you're specifically referring to, other than falling intonation...but that's so ingrained in the meaning and context of the discourse that it's kind of like saying, "Obama uses a lot of words with voiced plosives." Accurate, but there's more.

I once took a transcription of a speech of his and started circling, bracketing, underlining, highlighting and whatnot. I found so many damn correspondences that I couldn't even read the damn thing. The guy is good.

He also tends to use voiced bilabial implosive stops stylistically, which I find super fascinating. Once I started noticing it, I couldn't stop. Now I hear how he builds up to more implosiveyness as he reaches the point he's making. It's kind of neat.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:58 PM on January 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


There's no orthography for slang elisions

There ain't?
posted by progosk at 3:02 PM on January 20, 2010


Man, this is endemic in my school. It's a way to show uncertainty and avoid responsibility. If someone asks what page the homework was, saying that it's on p 345 is completely different from saying that it's like on p 345.

It's also almost completely replaced "said", to the point where recountings of conversations sound like this: "And then he was like, What? And I was like, Yeah, I know, right? And he was like, Whatever." You don't remember exactly what they said, but this is, like, pretty close. It's the death of precision.
posted by estlin at 3:03 PM on January 20, 2010


You know, my sister-in-law injects 'you know' into every sentence, you know, regardless of how, you know, long or short it is, you know, so having a, you know, conversation with her is, you know, fucking painful.
posted by bwg at 3:12 PM on January 20, 2010


I don't know if you'd call it a verbal tic, but ever since I watched The Wire I begin, inject and end my sentences with "muhfucker."

Oh, indeed.
posted by bwg at 3:13 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks, iamkimiam, although truthfully I only understood about 10% of that.
posted by desjardins at 3:14 PM on January 20, 2010


I'm fairly sure that iamkimiam is saying that Obama speaks with no negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one
posted by found missing at 3:30 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


what
posted by found missing at 3:33 PM on January 20, 2010


I will not soon forget the day a new hire showed up in our office who looked like a twenty year old Sylvester Stallone and the shock to my ears when he opened his mouth and out came uptalk. It was long after I noticed it proliferating but I had gotten used to it as a female speech marker.
posted by bukvich at 3:51 PM on January 20, 2010


I found it hard it's hard to find
Oh well whatever nevermind
posted by bwg at 3:53 PM on January 20, 2010


It seems like it's either an attempt to put some needless uncertainty into a phrase (serving the same purpose as upspeak), or possibly it's that society has now got so ridiculously sarcastic that everything has to be re-affirmed to show that it's supposed to be a genuine assertion (making it a contraction of "Yeah, it was awesome. No, really, it was awesome, I'm not kidding.")

"Yeah, no" does not derive from "Yeah I know". "Yeah, no" means I'm about to fundamentally disagree with something you said, but I want to do so non-combatively. Either because I want to soften the blow or because your wrongness is due to a misunderstanding.


"Yeah, no" has always been clearly defined pretty differently in my head. It's definitely a non-combative way of just saying "No, you're wrong," but it's also just a way of saying, "Yeah, [I see what you mean/ I hear what you're saying, but] no." "Yeah" is often used colloquially as a way to acknowledge that you're listening, so the phrase "Yeah, no" is much less oxymoronic than it seems at first glance.
posted by myelin sheath at 4:04 PM on January 20, 2010


I could use a better substitute for "with regards to".

My understanding is that 'regards' should be sent, as to Broadway.

If you are inquiring about something, you might have a question regarding whatever it is.

Terribly prescriptive of me, but if you feel you you're over using it, this distinction might help.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 4:04 PM on January 20, 2010


Just overheard in my office 10 seconds ago:

I'm not even, like, whatever, and then she's like all okay, oh well
posted by desjardins at 4:11 PM on January 20, 2010


It took most of the '90s for British footballers to learn not to start every sentence with "As I say" during TV interviews.

On the other hand, when the London Borough of Hounslow launched a local Community/Regional Regeneration project in the town of Brentford, they called it The Brentford Initiative. A key partner in the project was Brentford Football Club, then occupying the second tier of the English game. One of the team's reserve players lobbied very hard for the slogan of the initiative to be shortened to "Brentford, Innit." He has grown up to be a MeFite.
posted by Sk4n at 4:15 PM on January 20, 2010


I have no idea what "Yeah, No" actually connotes, but I seem to say it all time.
posted by philip-random at 4:29 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another linguistics joke:

so this linguist is lecturing and says to her class "while there many languages where two negatives make a positive -- for example 'you can't not notice his shirt' -- there are none where two positive expressions convey a negative meaning."

as she pauses for emphasis, a sleepy boy in the back of the class mutters

"yeah, right"
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:16 PM on January 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


> Gnome sane?

do not consider leaving, prac. you would leave a miguel-sized hole.
posted by jfuller at 5:20 PM on January 20, 2010


Wow, a Christopher Hitchens article that actually makes sense!
posted by blue shadows at 5:57 PM on January 20, 2010


So in 1952 Roman Jakobson walks into a Harlem bar and asks the bartender who he's voting for (or probably, for whom he was planning to vote) and the bartender says:

Well, Mister, I likes Ike.

(And that is a joke so inside linguistics that it came out the other side and discovered its own tail. The reference is to Jakobson's 1960 essay "Linguistics and Poetics," and reading it changed my understanding of language fundamentally.)
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:01 PM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I grew up with very mongrel-ized pronunciation habits. My dad was in the service and we lived in the southern US, South America, and the UK. God. When I got to the UK my parents made me go to an off base British PUBLIC school. The shit I got from those god damned snotty kids for the way I spoke. It was terrible. I made a concerted effort to then be my own Henry Higgens and ditch the "y'alls" and round out my vowels and all that. And one thing about British kids, they had actual vocabularies. It went so far as for Christmas I asked my parents for a Dictionary. Seriously. I would sit practice repeating what the BBC news announcers would say. Practice memorizing vocabulary. Eventually everything kind of worked itself out and I fit in.

Then we moved back to the states. In the 1970's. Holy fuck. Do you know what a culture shock that was? My buzz-cut hair cut alone. Not to mention dressing like my momma dressed me. In straight leg slacks and blazers and shit. BLAZERS!

I distinctly recall walking to Kit Carlson Elementary for the first time and meeting some kids who immediately said, and I quote, "Are you some sort of fag or something, know whatI'msay'n?"

And I replied something like "I assure you I clearly ascertain the meaning of your query and can assure I am not homosexual."

But really I think I got to about the second syllable of "assertain" when I got punched in the face.
posted by tkchrist at 6:02 PM on January 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Then we moved back to the states. In the 1970's. Holy fuck. Do you know what a culture shock that was? My buzz-cut hair cut alone. Not to mention dressing like my momma dressed me. In straight leg slacks and blazers and shit. BLAZERS!

You were one of the Venture Brothers!
posted by dunkadunc at 6:11 PM on January 20, 2010


I made a concerted effort . . .

By yourself?
posted by Herodios at 7:24 PM on January 20, 2010


With "yeah, no" you've softened the blow enabling your disagreement to be swept under the rug.

I completely and utterly agree with you, but you are fundamentally wrong on every level.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:38 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I use "yeah, no" in 2 different ways. One is the literal, "yes, I acknowledge what you've said, and I respectfully disagree", ("Yeah, no, I think I've seen better shows than that noise in my life, thanks") the other is the sarcastic "no, really, I totally agree, I know you don't think I do but I completely do" ("Yeah, no, that show was srsly off the hook and I was not expecting it to be at all"). Confusing, I know.

Valley English is my native dialect and although I'm in my mid-20s I find I still use a lot of slang that kind of feels like high school. Clueless came out when I was 10ish and I think it really gave a lot of young women in the LA metro area the idea that it was their patriotic duty to innovate on the goofy teenage words front. I tend to latch onto random adverbs and run them into the ground. Lately, it's "realistically", which I know I use way too much. Also have carried "totes" and other facebook style abbrevs, such as "serious" pronounced as "cirrus" to mimic the spelling "srs", into casual speech. No, I'm not dropping "totes"-bombs at work. And I say "100%" a lot in order to kind of cut down on my totallys.

So I'm here to tell you all that the proper responses to "know'm say'n" and its cousin "knah'mean" is pretty much "totes", "for sure", or "100%". Or maybe "I know, right?" if the person asking seems particularly incensed. Never say I never taught you anything.

I guess what this thread just did was make me feel super young. Complaining about "like" is still a thing? I was honestly shocked that Christopher Hitchens was jumping on that moldy old bandwagon when I saw this article a few days back and then it elicits all this, like, commentary. Whut!
posted by crinklebat at 8:01 PM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is this a Canadian thing? I hear a lot of "So I says to 'im, I says..."

Sort of old-codgerese for "like, I was all..."

I think this is what the purists object to. There's a word for that: paraphrase

Hmm... I'm picturing overhearing some teenagers: "So then he says, and I'm paraphrasing..."
posted by Crane Shot at 9:16 PM on January 20, 2010


Is this a Canadian thing? I hear a lot of "So I says to 'im, I says..."

No, it's an old-codger thing.
posted by Miko at 9:19 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fourcheesemac, am I right in asking if what you are describing doesn't seem to be like a hypertext markup language code... for human brains; with actions, and other methods that Link ideas larger, grander and more (unwordable) together. [moreso than the simple "smiles, eye contact" etc. cues we all get taught about]

In fact, they extend the grammatical precision of English (especially with respect to a) reported speech and b) turn-taking cues) in interesting ways.

I would personally like an article by metafilter linguists united much more than one like by Mr. Hitchens', he is like copying like every mainstream magazine in the 1990's and early 2000's (you can also like bury the fact that facts are not present with likes), always good to know what our friends are up to (rehashing the boringest of the linguistic tirades of the 90's... while conveniently ignoring the decade where he played a... may I say, shady advocacy role)... Also; I use three dots more often than I think we are supposed to in English, but they connect the ideas that need to be connected, but not completely separated like jarring separate ideas and thought collections... am I a bad person?

Why do people measure the esteem or value of their statements by how far they can tell?
posted by infinite intimation at 10:59 PM on January 20, 2010


Why do people measure the esteem or value of their statements by how far they can tell?

"As far as I can tell" is usually employed as a disclaimer or acknowledgment of the limits of one's own vantage point rather than as bona fides. As far as I can tell, anyway.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:05 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know about anywhere else, but where I come from, the "no" in "yeah, no" is the equivalent of "isn't that so?" It's issued in a rising intonation that starts lower than the "yeah." I always associated it with "ne," the Japanese negative question marker that is used to ask for (implied) agreement to a statement "kowaii, ne?" "It's scary, isn't it?" "Yeah, no" is used like the common Japanese phrase "So da ne?" "Isn't that exactly how things are?" around here.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:01 AM on January 21, 2010


"I don't know if you'd call it a verbal tic, but ever since I watched The Wire I begin, inject and end my sentences with "muhfucker."

Ha. I do the same thing with "indeed."

Hey, this reminds me: how are you supposed to respond when your conversation partner habitually ends sentences with: "...you know what I'm saying?"

"Dude, you're hella dumb."

Speaking of dude...

There's dude (=addressing someone), dude! (=awesome!), dude?! (=WTF?!) and duuuuude! (=like totally tubular!).
posted by wherever, whatever at 2:02 AM on January 21, 2010


We had a discussion in a prior linguistics thread a few weeks back about "evidentials" -- grammatical markers that oblige the speaker to report how s/he knows what s/he is saying is true.

"As far as I can tell" is a clunky substitute for having a verb argument structure that would imply at least as much for every statement and be as obligatory as the singular/plural distinction is for us now.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:48 AM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


"And I replied something like 'I assure you I clearly ascertain the meaning of your query and can assure I am not homosexual.' But really I think I got to about the second syllable of 'assertain' when I got punched in the face."

Shut up, Pip. Nobody likes you.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:28 AM on January 21, 2010


Clueless started it? Really? I suppose it is quite possible that I am the only mefite whose attitude toward Hitchens is neutral enough to RTFA as far as the fourth paragraph:

Its antecedents are not as ignoble as those of “you know.” It was used by the leader of the awesome Droogs in the 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess, who had possibly annexed it from the Beatnik Maynard G. Krebs, of Dobie Gillis.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:08 PM on January 21, 2010


Yeah, a couple people like, pointed that out already in this thread. Just sayin'
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:12 PM on January 21, 2010


"Can anyone explain why the colonists wanted independence? Lisa?"
"Well, the colonists were, like..."
SLAM!
"...um, they, weren't, like..."
SLAM!
"...uh, like..."
SLAM!


I actually find that to be quite an incredibly disturbing story on a number of levels. It's not a funny thing to do. It's not clever.

Any teacher that thinks that it's a good idea to adopt a system whereby students are co-opted into policing the verbal hygiene of their peers is either a bully, an undercover research scientist doing some terrifying re-run of Stanford, or someone who needs a basic introduction as to how socio-linguistics work.
posted by somergames at 2:53 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


NOTE TO THE HUMAN RACE : Whenever you say "Just sayin'," there's a 90% chance that whatever you said immediately preceding it was something incredibly dickish and unacceptable.

In the South it's OK to say something disparaging about someone behind their back as long as (1) it's true and (2) you follow it with "Bless his/her heart!"
posted by Daddy-O at 3:49 PM on January 21, 2010


Any teacher that thinks that it's a good idea to adopt a system whereby students are co-opted into policing the verbal hygiene of their peers is either a bully, an undercover research scientist doing some terrifying re-run of Stanford, or someone who needs a basic introduction as to how socio-linguistics work.

And yet, unless the politics of the school ground have changed drastically since I was last there, this is pretty much exactly what happens as soon as kids leave the classroom anyway. I was a pretty smart kid (bigger than average vocabulary, better than average grasp of the intricacies of spoken grammar), but man did I learn early to watch what I said (and how) in the company of my peers, to the extant that by my mid-teens I spoke two pretty much completely different dialects of so-called English:

- the "correct" one that worked for me around adults and in school
- the "incorrect" one that didn't get me slapped around, called a fag etc in the schoolground.

The interesting thing is how both of them serve me pretty well here in the wonderful world of Meta.
posted by philip-random at 4:14 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess I should give an example, in case anyone is still reading this: "That George W Bush is as dumb as a box of rocks, bless his heart!"
posted by Daddy-O at 4:42 PM on January 21, 2010


NOTE TO THE HUMAN RACE : Whenever you say "Just sayin'," there's a 90% chance that whatever you said immediately preceding it was something incredibly dickish and unacceptable.

NOTE TO AFROBLANCO: We don't really care what makes your blood boil. In fact, we might deliberately try to make your blood boil, just for shits and giggles.

Just sayin'.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:24 PM on January 21, 2010


dunkadunc: if you're going to use somebody else's words, at least attribute them to their original speakers instead of passing them off as your own. That's from George Galloway.

I know. I was making a George Galloway reference. Metafilter people are smart and tend to pick up on and laugh at stuff like that. I give you a gold star on your forehead for diligence, sadly I'm fresh out of ponies.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:56 PM on January 21, 2010


"True wisdom is losing track of your sources."






I forget who said that.
posted by philip-random at 12:02 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


NOTE TO THE HUMAN RACE : Whenever you say "Just sayin'," there's a 90% chance that whatever you said immediately preceding it was something incredibly dickish and unacceptable.

NOTE TO AFROBLANCO: We don't really care what makes your blood boil. In fact, we might deliberately try to make your blood boil, just for shits and giggles.

Just sayin'.


Thus doubly proving oneself a cruel jerk who enjoys condescending to people AND "deliberately" antagonizing them. I wish there was a way to remove such folks from the gene pool. They can make reading through threads like this exhausting and unpleasant. Unless the reader is into snark and rudeness -- in which case threads like this are probably exhilarating.
posted by grumblebee at 8:37 AM on January 22, 2010


I wish there was a way to remove such folks from the gene pool.

I think this is traditionally done by murdering the subject before he has a chance to reproduce. So, there is a way.

Just sayin
posted by found missing at 9:43 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


If someone who values politeness grapples with someone who is snarky and gets off on watching other people suffer, my money is (alas) on the latter.
posted by grumblebee at 10:32 AM on January 22, 2010


Pigeons on the grass alas.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:35 AM on January 22, 2010


If they were not pigeons what were they.
posted by grumblebee at 11:25 AM on January 22, 2010


magpie in the sky? He asked
posted by found missing at 12:20 PM on January 22, 2010


Thus doubly proving oneself a cruel jerk who enjoys condescending to people AND "deliberately" antagonizing them. I wish there was a way to remove such folks from the gene pool. They can make reading through threads like this exhausting and unpleasant. Unless the reader is into snark and rudeness -- in which case threads like this are probably exhilarating.

Well, that's an unnecessarily harsh response to my little joke, intended merely to imply that trying to make the world conform to one's apparently seething resentment of certain verbal ticks is tilting at windmills.

You can characterize me as a jerk in seriousness if you like -- certainly I am one, sometimes, as is everyone, pretty much -- but 'cruel'? Really? Where does that come from? Because I made a humourous rejoinder to Afroblanco's (I assume) slightly tongue-in-cheek directive to the world at large?

Well, shrug, I guess. My wife and I probably won't be having kids, so you don't have to worry about my cruel jerkiness polluting the gene pool. Hopefully that will dissuade you from murdering me.

For what it's worth, I both value politeness and do not in any way 'get off on watching other people suffer'. But I also resent people telling me, or others, how they may or may not use language, though not as much as I resent you insulting me.

I suspect, either way, that Afroblanco's level of suffering when people use the phrase "Just sayin'", even in jest, isn't all that unbearable.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:26 PM on January 22, 2010


"Like" seems to function as more than just a filler - it's a significant extender. It doesn't just convey uncertainty; the speaker also ends up having the floor much, much longer thanks to the endless, arrhythmic stop/start stutter that the like-commas produce. They don't fill the pauses in the flow - they deliberately serve to make the "flow" more jerky. People ask why Hitchens et al are still complaining about "like"? I would guess because after 4 decades, "like" has never ceased driving people bananas. Listening to like-strewn speech is tedious. When forced to listen to it I often feel like blurting "spit it out for god's sake!"

I would guess it's not just fogeys who object to it. Did anyone else dislike it in high school? As a tomboy in the 70s in Vancouver I remember deliberately avoiding valleyspeak (which quickly made its way north) because - well, it was ditzy, and girly, and it had a "don't take me seriously; I certainly don't" quality that I, as a girl, was busy trying to avoid. Where I came from "like" etc. was driven in part by a deliberate down-class move on the part of middle class kids, not unlike the way posh English kids in the 80s adopted lower class accents and slang (including 'innit'). Regardless, all the motivations for it seem to have to do with a kind of cynical dissembling rather than with creativity. I don't buy the "language is growing and changing" argument for this one, because 40 years later "like" just doesn't seem that creative, or constructive, or interesting.

As for Obama, I'm not fond of that end-of-sentence downspeak. I hear it as a preacher's cadence, and to my ear it has a paternalistic, even patronizing sound. Especially when you add his habitual "Look" and "Make no mistake" openers mentioned above.

Sorry if this Taylor Mali routine has been mentioned already.
posted by Lidsville at 1:56 AM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Andrew sullivan brings us news that WE are killing people by torture; thread is referendum on if we can even LISTEN to his reporting of said disgusting practices which Hitchens helped sell...

Christopher Hitchens brings us HIS take on why -
To report that “he was like, Yeah, whatever” is to struggle to say “He said” while minimizing the risk of commitment. (This could be why young black people don’t seem to employ “like” quite as often, having more challenging vernaculars such as “Nome sane?”—which looks almost Latin.)

Many parents and teachers have become irritated to the point of distraction at the way the weed-style growth of “like” has spread through the idiom of the young. And it’s true that in some cases the term has become simultaneously a crutch and a tic, driving out the rest of the vocabulary as candy expels vegetables. But it didn’t start off that way, and might possibly be worth saving in a modified form.

lol, What? does he get his writing advice here? (gonna write a blog? why not try a nice conversational style...

or here?

Can You Start Sentences with “And” or “But”?
by Daniel Scocco


In the past, English teachers used to preach that one should never start a sentence with conjunctions like and or but. Does this rule still apply today?

Not entirely. It is already acceptable to start sentences with such conjunctions. Some authorities, in fact, even defend that for some cases conjunctions will do a better job than more formal constructions. Here is a quotation from Ernest Gowers addressing the usage of and on the beginning of sentences:

That it is a solecism to begin a sentence with and is a faintly lingering superstition. The OED gives examples ranging from the 10th to the 19th c.; the Bible is full of them.

While it is acceptable to use such conjunctions to start a sentence, you should still use them carefully and efficiently, else your text might become choppy.

--------------
So basically... 'don't use choppy communications patterns, unless you are me, and then only use ones that connote the superior mindstyle of your languages praetorian vanguard.' (Hitch).

Also:
It was used by the leader of the awesome Droogs

I am starting to see why I don't like the things this man says... the droogs were not awesome... they were crap faced evil er Batshitinsane...Burgess' WRITING was awesome... for someone arguing for the specificity of words, structure and form, he is quite the liberal with his own.

But I only criticize because he seems simply colour blind, to the beauty of a) regionality, also to cultural variation, also to the fact that English is evolving, because if it doesn't it will die out, and be replaced in a few generations by the much more globally prevalent choices of language (Arabic, Chinese, etc.) also he is blatantly Euro-centric and almost Imperialist in his writing; 'if you don't use 'proper' language, I just don't CARE what you're saying...et cetera et cetera'... while giving no concern to the wealthy white British traditions of Henceforth, wherefore, following from, therefore, essentially, basically, intrinsically, or any of like a million words, such as these, which are used in EXACTLY the same manner all the time by blustery blowhards such as himself (has he disowned his immense eminent support of Torture yet?)... And still, he seems to have no issue whatsoever with any of these words... curious? Or par for his personal course.

Also: the most important bit gets lost in his sea of his own self-righteous certainty...

So it can be of use to a natural raconteur. Ian McEwan rather surprised me when I asked him about “like,” telling me that “it can be used as a pause or a colon: very handy for spinning out a mere anecdote into a playlet that’s full of parody and speculation.” And also of hyperbole, as in “She’s been out with, like, a million guys.”


I'm with McEwan.

Thank you for posting this however, as I do appreciate and have loved the discussion and explanations that come from Metafilter, and the threads defense of the very language styles he has decried...
Language is beautiful... play with it!
posted by infinite intimation at 1:02 PM on January 23, 2010


NOTE TO THE HUMAN RACE : Whenever you say "Just sayin'," there's a 90% chance that whatever you said immediately preceding it was something incredibly dickish and unacceptable.

NOTE TO AFROBLANCO: We don't really care what makes your blood boil. In fact, we might deliberately try to make your blood boil, just for shits and giggles.

Just sayin'.


Thus doubly proving oneself a cruel jerk who enjoys condescending to people AND "deliberately" antagonizing them. I wish there was a way to remove such folks from the gene pool. They can make reading through threads like this exhausting and unpleasant. Unless the reader is into snark and rudeness -- in which case threads like this are probably exhilarating.

First of all, I apologize to you for my rudeness and hypocrisy.

I suspect there were several levels of misunderstanding going on, which is not to excuse my behavior. I'm just explaining what, in hindsight, I think happened.

I hate passive-aggressive, sarcastic remarks like "just sayin'" just-as-much-as (if not more than) Afroblanco does. They really bother me. I'm sure to many people, they are at worst irritating but not that bit a deal and, at best, kind of fun. But to me, they are one of many things that make like ugly. If you think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, I understand that, and I see your point. But it's how I feel.

I also agree with Afro's claim: in my experience "Just sayin'" almost always is the twist of a knife in a wound dealt immediately prior. It has a really snarky, condescending feel -- something along the lines of "you might just want to give what I said a little thought -- if you have half a brain..."

So Afro's comment immediately rang true to me. It was like a breath of fresh air.

Then -- my mistake, sorry -- I didn't read your response as a joke.

(I also don't really read Afro's original message as an order for you to stop using the phrase "just sayin'." Rather, I read it as a complaint.

That's how I feel about "Just sayin," anyway. As much as I hate that phrase -- and I REALLY hate it -- I would never, in a million years, censor people who say it (even if I had the power to do so). Just because I tell you I don't like it when use certain words, that doesn't mean I reject your right to use them. I champion the right of Tim Burton to make movies -- even though I hate his movies and wish he would stop making them. If I met him, I might ask him to stop making them. But he has every right to ignore my plea and make them anyway. And I would fight to keep that right enshrined in our society.)


We don't really care what makes your blood boil.


That still doesn't seem joke-like to me.

But you are in a better position to know if you were joking than I am. Taken as a literal statement (the way I took it), I wasn't just irritated by the callousness of it; I was also irritated by the untruthfulness of it: WE don't really care? No. YOU don't really care. How do you know that other people don't care about what Afro wrote? I'm another person, and I care.


In fact, we might deliberately try to make your blood boil, just for shits and giggles.


The idea of deliberately irritating or hurting someone -- just for the heck of it -- offends me. Again. I'm sorry. I didn't know you were joking. I'm heard people express sentiments like this as serious statements. What were the markers I missed that indicated a joke? (That's not a sarcastic question. I sometimes miss nuances. I believe you that those nuances are there, but I still don't see them. Where are they?)


Just sayin'.


There is a communication pattern which I find childish and nasty. It goes like this:

A: I hate X.
B: Oh yeah? Well... X!!!!!

Why do this? It's like if someone says, "I hate the sound of fingernails on a blackboard!" And, upon hearing that, some bastard scrapes his fingernails down the blackboard, as if to say, "Thanks for telling me about your weak spot, sucker. I'll keep it in mind from now on!"

Now, onto my post:


Thus doubly proving oneself a cruel jerk who enjoys condescending to people AND "deliberately" antagonizing them.


I guess that's pretty much the definition of passive-aggressive rudeness -- my charges against you. So it was cowardly, nasty AND hypocritical. For all of which, I hope you accept my apology.

I wish there was a way to remove such folks from the gene pool.

I meant this as a joke. I figured it was so over-the-top, you'd take it as one -- as a hyperbolic way of saying "you pissed me off." Well, if I expect you to make your jokes clearer, I can't expect less of myself. So -- again -- sorry. For the record: I don't condone selective breeding.

They can make reading through threads like this exhausting and unpleasant. Unless the reader is into snark and rudeness -- in which case threads like this are probably exhilarating.

I still agree with that statement.

As objectively as I can see things, I'd say that you and I both acted badly (I'm not sure about Afroblanco. I don't really see how his statement was much more than a complaint, though perhaps, there was a touch of condescension in it.)

You felt that Afro had been rude to you. Instead of doing what you should have done -- if you truly value politeness -- and said, "Afro, please don't say things like that..." you lashed out at him with a snarky joke (or at least that was my interpretation). That's never acceptable, even if someone is rude to you. "Two wrongs" and all that...

Then I did the same thing to you. What I did was, perhaps, worse than what you did. I don't know if you have a personal policy against being rude to people, even if they are rude first, but I do. So not only did I offend you. I offended myself. To which, I guess, I owe myself an apology.
posted by grumblebee at 9:14 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also agree with Afro's claim: in my experience "Just sayin'" almost always is the twist of a knife in a wound dealt immediately prior. It has a really snarky, condescending feel -- something along the lines of "you might just want to give what I said a little thought -- if you have half a brain..."

Bizarre and interesting. I'm kind of agape at that. I have never -- literally never -- seen or understood it to be used in that way, that I can recall. My interpretation has always been that it's a self-abnegating joke, intended to mean that the speaker does not necessarily regard him or herself as necessarily correct, or fully informed, or an authority, and that what they say might not even be relevant. In other words, in some ways, completely the opposite of the way you understand it. I really wonder sometimes how ostensibly intelligent and literate people can understand common phrases in their native language in such completely different ways, but it seems to happen all the damned time.

Strange, and depressing, ultimately.

You felt that Afro had been rude to you.

Well, see, no, not at all. I was and am certain he wasn't talking about me, although I have certainly used the phrase he so dislikes in the past.

My use of 'we' was probably ill-advised, because it implied that I was including myself somehow in the 'we', which made sense, I guess, because I am, after all, part of 'the world'. What I should have said was, perhaps, something like
The world doesn't really care what makes your blood boil. In fact, the world might deliberately try to make your blood boil, just for shits and giggles.
But you know, the world isn't capable of conscious action, so I fell back on 'we' without much thinking about it. I wasn't talking about the behaviour he could necessarily expect from me after his demand, but from the world at large.

Really, all I was trying to do was point out that it is ridiculous to issue injunctions to the world at large, demanding that the people in it behave according to your arbitrary likes and dislikes. He was speaking to the world, I was pretending to be the Voice of The World he was addressing. It seemed like the best choice, I suppose, compositionally, though I didn't think much about it.

And you know, it was pretty clear from the way Afroblanco phrased his original comment that he had his tongue more than halfway in his cheek in doing so, and thought it was reasonably clear that mine was as well, even if, like he was, there was a point about something buried within. His, that reading the phrase 'Just sayin'' actually does set his teeth on edge, mine, that telling the world to conform to one's whims is never going to go well.

The amusing thing about it, to me, at least, is that despite using the phrase myself occasionally, out of laziness more than anything else, it has come to kind of annoy me, too.

There is a communication pattern which I find childish and nasty.

For someone who seems to be apologizing, you're still slinging the insults pretty manfully, there. But fine: I'll cop to childish and nasty, if that's what you want, as well and cruel and jerky. Fuck it: words are just words. And me telling you in text what kind of person I think am is about as effective as painting a symphony. You're going to have your own opinion.

But I think you're being wildly and wilfully over-sensitive about it, especially since my sally wasn't even directed at you. To me, in tagging my comment, which was meant as a kind of parody of Afroblanco's, with the very phrase that he was issuing a (half-joking, as I understood) injunction to the world at large to stop using, I was just deploying a rhetorical device. The point, demonstrated, self-referentially. I thought that was kinda funny, and assumed in writing it that Afroblanco would, as well.

This kind of analysis of a throwaway comment is exhausting. Really, I find it a little hard to understand why you care so deeply -- but then, I guess if your understanding of me is that I am a trolling jerk, someone who delights in tormenting others, despite 10 fucking years of participation on this site that, for the most part at least would indicate otherwise, then you're well within your rights to try and push back.

So, fine. Apologize to yourself, and me in the process. I appreciate the gesture, and accept it in the spirit in which it was intended. I will say that it does kinda seem couched in further papercut assassination of my character, based it seems solely on your understanding of the emotional subtext (which differs radically from mine) of a certain overused phrase. But that's life.

The initial shock of being the target of vitriol from someone I had imagined to be quite sensible and reasonable had me a little shaken, to be honest, but, look: if I had to think about every throwaway comment I make here this much because I was terrified that someone might take it as unsupportably rude, I'd have to just close my account and walk away. There aren't enough hours in the day to worry that people understand words in completely different ways than I do, and might call, even in jest, for my eradication from the gene pool because of it.

You're welcome to your opinion about me. All I can do is what I always have done -- participate in good faith, doing my best to be a good and kind person, with all my failings and foibles on display. But not ever to self-censor or restrain myself from making my feelings clear when I feel it's something worth saying (even if that feeling is transient and possibly later-to-be-regretted).

Which, perhaps, is what you try do as well, in a somewhat more... deliberate and soberminded way.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:48 PM on January 23, 2010


Damn. Explaining a bit of offhand, tongue-in-cheek humor, after the fact, to someone who didn't get the joke or the intent, is... a lotta work. A hella lotta work. And stav, you did a good job with it, if I may say so.

Now, you and grumblebee oughtta go take a nice walk, or listen to some good music, or eat a satisfying meal, and forget all this nonsense! Y'hear?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:22 AM on January 24, 2010


Aye.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:18 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Re: the childish and nasty thing.

For the sake of my point, below, I'm going to create a fictional you who was definitely rude. I respect your claim that your were joking. I know how much it sucks to have someone insist you had a certain intent that you know you didn't have. But it's tiresome (to the reader, I suspect, as well as to me), for me to keep writing "as I saw it" and "in my opinion."

If you care deeply about rudeness, it's very hard to know how to react when someone is rude. To me, rudeness is very much like litter. What do you do when someone throws a candy wrapper on the sidewalk (especially if they don't just walk on -- if they can see any action you take, e.g. if you can't just stealthily pick up the wrapper and put it in the trash without the litterbug noticing)? A single wrapper on the sidewalk doesn't cause much harm. But the wrappers add together to make the world less tolerable for some of us.

Do you just ignore the rudeness? I DO think "mom" is right: if you ignore a bully, he'll go away. At least most of the time. Because the bully wants attention, and if you don't give him any, it's like starving a fire of oxygen. But I don't think all rudeness is just a grab at attention. It often comes from anger, exasperation or exhaustion.

Ignoring rudeness can be like letting the wrappers stay on the sidewalk -- you wind up accepting and condoning a world in which litter is allowable.

You can be rude to the rude person, which is what I stupidly did in this thread. In my experience, this NEVER helps -- at least if your goal is to lower the amount of rudeness in the world. (It's like throwing a wrapper in the litterbug's yard.) At best it leads to double the amount of rudeness (the original + yours). At worst it leads to a "revenge cycle" that goes on indefinitely.

The only other option I can think of is to tell the rude person that he has upset you. You must do this without being rude. This may, of course, have not effect at all. (He may say or think, "I don't care if I upset you.") It may reinforce the rudeness ("Good. My goal was to upset you.")

Hopefully, if you can manage to find a balance between simply stating your feelings and not going over-board in doing so, you'll (sometimes) affect the rude person without giving him overly-negative attention.

There's no perfect solution.

Re the childish and nasty thing:

When someone says "I hate X" and "you" respond "X," in my view that IS childish and nasty. I can keep quiet about that view, and perhaps I should, but -- without any desire to wound or get the upper hand -- it IS what I think and feel. It's like if you told someone who's mother just died that he should "just get over it." I might say, "That's hurtful." It's just a statement of fact. Or at least a statement of a specific world view.

Which is not to say that "stating a fact" can't be rude. "You're fat" might be a fact. It's also rude. Sorry if I was rude. My intent was just to point out what I saw as rude behavior. In my view, there's is one thing that we can say about ALL rude behavior (mine included). It is always childish and nasty. It is never mature and nice.


But I think you're being wildly and willfully over-sensitive about it


Oversensitive? Probably.
Wildly. Probably.
Willfully. Definitely not.
posted by grumblebee at 9:55 AM on January 24, 2010


By the way, I have no opinion about you.

I can understand how, from what I've written here, you might think I do. But honestly, I have no belief that you're a rude person.

Most people who I see act rudely aren't rude people -- not in general. Or at least I have no reason to think they are. It's naive to assume that only people who are rude-by-nature commit rude acts. I am exceedingly polite by nature, and look how I acted here!

I was only reacting to something I THOUGHT happened in this thread. Not to you in general as a person. I don't know you in real life, and I haven't paid much attention to you on this site (sorry), so I have no opinion of your character at all.
posted by grumblebee at 9:59 AM on January 24, 2010


Well, at least you haven't beat it to death.
posted by found missing at 10:07 AM on January 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


It was used by the leader of the awesome Droogs

response:
the droogs were not awesome... they were crap faced evil er Batshitinsane...Burgess' WRITING was awesome... for someone arguing for the specificity of words, structure and form, he is quite the liberal with his own.

Burgess was very clear on slang: "Slang, though humanly irreverent, tends to be inhumanly loveless. It lacks tenderness and compassion; its poetry has the effulgence of a soldier's brass buttons." Anthony Burgess, author of Clockwork Orange, New York Times, July 12, 1970.
posted by Lidsville at 12:29 PM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I apologize for my recent irreverent inhuman loveless-ness (seriously), there has been a lot of reality that seems to come from a scale beyond individual control recently, I have allowed this to remove myself from how I strive to be, turning to simply tossing out what essentially amounts to throwaway snark... self-control is needed in times like this, I have allowed larger events to sway my overall mood to one of a less positive set of snark.

I hope you don't feel me to be critiquing your own opinion; that had not been my intention, I do think that critiques are needed for people with powerful voices (such as Mr. Hitchens), but what you were saying is not to be taken away from... (thank you for sharing that quote. I will definitely consider this statement as I try best to avoid being flip.)
posted by infinite intimation at 6:44 PM on January 24, 2010


Metafilter: I'm going to create a fictional you who was definitely rude.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:47 PM on January 24, 2010


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