The Grammarphobia Blog

She’s, like, gimme a break

Q: It should go without saying, but we have a generation that rarely says anything. Instead it’s “He goes, ‘What do you mean?’” or “She’s like, ‘I already told you once!’” You get the picture. Does this deserve a comment? Or a caveat? Just another symptom of the illiteration of American kids, I guess.

A: I see you’ve noticed this business about the decline of the verb “say” in favor of “like” and “go.” Like it or not, this has spread throughout the English-speaking world (grown-ups as well as kids) and it’s quite a phenomenon.

Linguists have studied the use of “like” and “go” to introduce quotations, thoughts, attitudes, and gestures. Their verdict? It’s a helpful and an innovative usage.

Grammarians and lexicographers haven’t gone quite so far, at least not yet. As for the parents of those youthful offenders, don’t ask!

As it happens, I did an article last year on the subject for the New York Times Magazine. Click here to read it.

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