too much typing—since 2003


and it goes like this

We were at a Thai restaurant the other night, and near us was a table of four folks in their early twenties. One of them - a dark-haired woman - was clearly the dominant conversationalist, and as we overheard her chatter, I found myself idly noticing certain features of her speech. Telling stories to her friends at the table, she related everything in terms of conversation. Rather than saying that so-and-so did something, she'd describe what she said, or he said.

But people in her world don't "say" anything. Everything was and he goes...and she I go. So I found myself wondering whether she use any word other than "go" to introduce conversations and was almost certain the answer was "no" - when at one point, I heard her say, "And I'm like..." So was there another alternative?

No - it turns out "like" is the word one uses to describe thoughts, rather than actual (or putative) conversation: And I go, Sandy, that's so gross, and I was like, what was she thinking...

I think of it in terms of cartoon balloons: "go" is the smooth-lined elliptical speech balloon, while "like" is the cloudlike, puffy balloon used to show, for example, cartoon animals' thoughts.


Anonymous said...

I once had a coworker who would recount every conversation with her husband with the preface, "So I told Jerry, I said, 'Jerry...'"

Similar thought: when I watched the documentary "Wattstax", I realized that it was a relic of the era before African-American speech was infected with the rhetorical refrain, "You know what I'm saying?" Language is truly a virus.

Have you ever read Tim Cahill's essay on ice fishing in Minnesota? He compares the Midwestern figure of speech "ainta?" (or "ainta hey?") to the French "Je ne sais quoi".

Anonymous said...

Oops, I meant "Ne c'est pas?" Cahill says that both "Ne c'est pas?" and "ainta hey?" are rhetorical questions, meaning "is it not so?" As in, "That was some muskie you caught dere, ainta?"

2fs said...

The Milwaukee variant - at least as enshrined in local lore and cheesy souvenir stands - is "ainahey," whose derivation is, I trust, obvious. I had a friend who claimed that actually "Ainahey" was the god of the city's south side (I guess it reminded him of "Jehovah" or something).