Saturday, 26 February 2011

Sarcasm? What's that, like?

Clark Whelton's amusing piece on the decline and fall of American English, and stuff is worth a gander.

Here, in the North East of England, the word "like" has been used as a full stop, "umm" replacement, and filler for many years.

Likewise, "sort of" has been littering sentences around the Middlesbrough conurbation since, at least, the 1980s.

An alarming trend to join the two has emerged in recent years. "I was, sort of like, saying to him, I said, sort of like, what you up to, like, I said, and he, sort of like, said, he said, I sort of like ..."

Sometimes, that's all I hear. "Blah, sort of like, blah, sort of like, blah blah, sort of like, blah, sort of like ..." Once I'm tuned in, I'm left floundering as the meaning of the sentences disappear beneath a sea of "sort of like"s.

But peculiar to this region - perhaps Liverpool too - is the use of "like" as a sarcastic signpost. Flagging the point, combining with tone - often underlining a rhetorical question -  to push home the opinion that the recipient is somewhat less than brilliant. Sometimes "like" will even reverse the meaning of the sentence up to that point.

When you read the following examples, remember to drop your voice at least an octave when saying the word "like". It's the opposite of up-speak? Where you raise the pitch so everything becomes a question? I think you'll get the idea?

On seeing a man with a huge gash in his head:
Bob, "I think he needs stitches."
Eve, "What are you, some kind of surgeon, like?"

On seeing the corpse of a dog in the road:
Bob, "I think it's dead."
Eve, "You a vet now, like?"

And so on. Quite useful then?

Anyway, it's Saturday, the garden wont ignore itself.

Here's wishing you peace, happiness and a great weekend.
Eve, "You turned into Mahatma Ghandi, like?"
Oh, shut up.
Eve, "Good comeback, like."
I'm off.
Eve, "Hurry back, like."


  1. I've picked up this horrible habit of using the filler "so." And I guess when I am lecturing, I say "kay?" a lot--apparantly it drives my department head nuts.

  2. Like, you know, that is like, so true!

    Some slang doesn't bother me as much, but a lot of repetition can be rather annoying . . . especially when it's constantly being used by a lot of people.

  3. My worst word is Actually. As in every sentence begins with the word -- actually.

    Actually, I was going to the store.
    Actually, I'm quite good at it.
    Actually, that is not what I meant to say at all.

    Unfortunately, now my 6 yr. old is saying it as well, although she has more of the sarcastic in her tone.

    Actually Mommy, I'm not going to the store with you.