Emphatic Like

It's, like, a characteristic of, like, ValSpeak?.

As opposed to BadMeaningGood, which is a characteristic of JiveSpeak?.

I've observed variants of ValSpeak?, even tried it some myself, and I have these comments on the semantics of the word "like" as an expletive.

"Like" adds emotional emphasis when inserted theatrically. I've witnessed conversations that sound (and look) like this: "I was like <gesture>, and he's like <gesture>". This ammounts to narrative theater, and the word "like" forms the bond between the narrative and the acting. That's EmphaticLike.

There's another form of the ValSpeak? "like" expletive that I would call EquivocalLike?. When you pepper any statement with "like", you dull all of the potential meaning of the statement, rendering it obtuse and unassailable. Except that a language enthusiast would assail it as being poor usage. "Well, we could, like, try to, like, see if we can get the tire lugs, like, loose." Here is someone afraid to propose we change the tire, for fear there may be some stigma attached.

Doesn't it just mean "um"?

The Oirish are particularly fond of putting 'like' at the end of the sentence like, even to the point where they greet each other with 'Hi like'

It serves many functions, but emphasis isn't one of them. The narrative 'like' (described above with gesture) indicates inexact quoting: 'So I'm like, "Never touch the stuff actually," and he's like, "Get out of town!"' indicates that maybe neither quote is verbatim, but both are characteristic of what was said. This is analogous to the gestural situation above: Neither gesture is a full reenactment, but both are sufficiently indicative that the listener/viewer can fill in the gaps. There's a hedging use of 'like' as well, 'That would be a problem if you got like 500 edits per minute', meaning 'what I'm about to say is accurate within an order of magnitude, but that's all'. I've also seen it mean 'this isn't a good example, but you and I both know what I'm talking about anyway'. In short, 'like' are a signal that the speaker is about to reduce fidelity in order to deal with restrictions of time, attention, or bandwidth. Equivocal 'like' is related but is a macro that expands to 'I'm not entirely certain about what I'm proposing, so double-check it before you act on it.' -- NathanERasmussen


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