Friday, December 26, 2008

be all like

Two things about seeing Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York in a Berkeley multiplex cinema yesterday: (1) the small theater in which we saw the movie was furnished with a small number of comfy chairs and couches, and (2) I found myself drawn into the conversation of a couple of strangers sitting behind me. It started with one fellow’s lament about the abuse of like as a discourse marker, a quotative, and a linguistic hedge or filler (link, link, and link). I held my silence, but when they were all like: “And then there’s go for said!” Still I ignored them. Mainly because I could not remember the linguistics term quotative go for this grammatical feature of the informal register in my own ideolect. But, they did not stop there, and finally they wondered, just a bit too loudly, about using the present tense to report something that had happened in the past. “It’s called the historic present,” I said (link). And then after a awkward pause, I added: “It’s good to finally get some use out of my linguistic degree.” We all of us laughed nervously and then lapsed into silence and waited for the movie to begin. It was wonderful.

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Blogger Bob Hale said...

And of course I agree with you all down the line. Nevertheless I'd be lying if I said that it didn't grate on my nerves when I heard two teenage girls conduct an entire conversation that consisted (or so it seemed) almost solely of variations on the phrase "Do you know what I mean, like".

(Actually reduced by their dialect to something more like "na'a'a mean like". As it's my dialect too, I was able to decode it.)

December 26, 2008 at 2:29 PM  
Blogger rchrd said...

Only in Berkeley.

But what about Caroline Kennedy's, you know, over use of, you know, "you know". There's a transcript of an interview somewhere in yesterday's Times, complete with multiple "you know's".

December 29, 2008 at 10:53 PM  
Blogger zmjezhd said...

Yes, I used to abuse you know in my youth, but my grandmother shamed me out of the habit. It does grate, but as long as they, you know, don’t use it in formal, written English, civilization ought to be safe for another week or two.

December 30, 2008 at 6:11 AM  

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