Safire's, like, on vacation or something this week, but Patricia T. O'Connor fills in
with a column on "like." Specifically, how like
can introduce a quotation ("'She's like
, 'What unusual shoes you're wearing?''") or paraphrase one ("''She's like
, my shoes are weird!'") Jennifer Dailey-O'Cain, an associate professor at the University of Alberta says of like
, "'It's innovative, it serves a particular function and it does specific things that you can't do with other quotatives.'"
So is the new like proper English? Well, the latest editions of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary now include it as a usage heard in informal speech. That's not a ringing endorsement, but it's not a condemnation, either.
Which isn't bad, as she explains: "Yet part of the resistance to like
may be its youthful rep." After all, "rep" to mean "reputation" (freely used by O'Connor and printed by the New York Times) isn't even listed
in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Merriam's Webster's
lists it as "slang."
But how long will it be before like finds its way into the news section of the New York Times? My guess? Give it a year or so. After all, "dissing" first appeared as a quote-marked novelty ["Dissing (verb: to insult, from disrespect)"] in a 6/2/90 article headlined "How to Stop Dis From Escalating Into Bif and Bam." Yet on 9/9/91, the Times was dropping the D-bomb like they was from the old school: "Connors cared so much about winning, about himself, that he willed himself into the semifinals, even to the point of dissing a chair umpire one nasty evening." The subject of the article? Tennis, actually. Recently, a 3/2/07 article read: "A year later Zarin Mehta, the orchestra's president and executive director, is blithely dissing that lone CD release." The latest hip-hop feud? Hells, no. The article was about the New York Philharmonic's three-year recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon.
Word up-- keep it real.