As I mentioned recently, I’m taking a class. While it’s been a bit of a trip getting back into the swing of attending classes, I’m actually enjoying the class. It’s a sociolinguistics class. A course I’ve been wanting to take for years. I missed taking it as an undergrad, though it was very relevant to one of my majors (linguistic anthropology). (It was offered only every couple of years, and happened to be offered the semester I was studying abroad.)
Anyhow, we’re going to be doing some sort of assignment on the quotative use of be like in English. That is, the use of the verb to be + like to mean, more-or-less “to say.” As in:
I was talking to this guy, and he was like “what’s that all about,” and I was like “How the hell should I know.” And he was like “get over yourself.” And I was like “whatever.”
Of course, this does not necessarily translate into the following dialog:
A: What’s that all about?
B: How the hell should I know.
A: Get over yourself.
Unlike when the verb say is used, using be + like doesn’t imply direct quotation. It usually suggests that the speaker is paraphrasing either a quotation, or an attitude or emotional response. It’s also generally used informally. This use of the quotative be like is extremely common not only in American English, but also in Canadian and British English. In spite of its wide use, it’s not always popular and is subject to some discussion even among those who don’t formally study language.
Anyhow, for my class, my professor is like “find an example. Use Google.” And I’m all like “dude, I can find a gazillion examples using Google.”
So, not satisfied with finding just one example for tomorrow’s class, I find myself wanting to dig into the search. And I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned and stumbled across. First, I found this great example of someone playing with the usage of “be all like,” a variant of “be like”:
…the high court ruled 6-3 that former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s play to put Oregon’s assisted suicide law out of business was unconstitutional. See, Ashcroft was all like, “Physician-assisted suicide is not a legitimate medical practice under the Controlled Substances Act and prescribing such lethal medication violates federal law!” But then the Supreme Court was all like, “Ashcroft’s directive is both unlawful, and unenforceable, and the attorney general has overstepped his authority.”
Here are some issues that come up in looking for use of the quotative “be like.”
I’ve actually found some other cool stuff in my googlings, but since I have to go to bed. I’ll spare you. For now, that is. (Bwa ha ha ha.)