Like, "Like"

I've received some e-mail on this post. More than anything, what gets goats about that post is this:

"The party which I told you about yesterday was, like, super fun."

I expected you to object to which. I've certainly heard you on the subject of restrictive clauses before! But no—it turns out that you don't like like. (And one of you, L------, doesn't like super fun, but I'll leave that for the moment. It was super fun, dammit. I know: I was there!).

Is like, in this case, ungrammatical?

No. Language Log posters have had lots of posts on this subject and here's a good one from Invented Usage. All give at least a nod, if not a genuflecting bow, to M. Siegel's paper: "Like: The Discourse Particle and Semantics" (J. of Semantics 19(1), Feb. 2002). I've borrowed heavily from their legwork, so, like, ladles of acknowledgement are seriously in order.

Like seems to be used primarily (though not exclusively) to either emphasize or signal a hedge about vocabulary choice. In these cases, it modifies a noun (or noun phrase) or verb (or verb phrase). For example:

- "Hume wondered whether the, like, causal connection, actually exists." (Lots of similar hedges are perfectly acceptable. Consider if you will or as it were or um.)

- "Did you, like, publish it already?" (Compare with and let me be clear on this.)

- "It was, like, super fun." (Ditto.)

Like is also, of course, used to signal a quote: "She was like, 'Hobbes was fond of his dram.'" (One day I'll have to write something about that other reviled quote signaller: all. "She was all, 'Hobbes was fond of his dram.'" Or how about both together?? "She was all like, 'Hobbes was fond of his dram.'")

I bet you can come up with some more examples, especially if you live with kids. Do they influence us or is the other way 'round? My 7-year-old was listening to me on the phone with a friend the other day. When I hung up, she said "You just said 'like' three times." Ooops.


Zootenany Hoodlum said...

I like like. I use it as often as possible. In speech, in blogs, and for sure in the quotes. I am always all like "and he was all like".

sunnyqb said...

well,like,I don't like it.

Mark Hanington said...

Smith where Jones was all like all like, was allike like all....

Darren said...

Fi, you are, like, an insane mega-blogger!