'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
SO I’M LIKE, ‘WHAT’S UP WITH LIKE?’
What’s wrong with the word “said”? The dictionary defines “said” as being the past tense of the word “say.” It is a perfectly fine word. After all, human beings talk constantly, and sometimes we talk about what other people previous talked about. In those cases, it is important to employ the word “said.”
For example, here’s a conversation that might have happened right after the October snow storm, with an employee of an out-of-state power company reporting to his boss: “I spoke to the president of CL&P this morning and told him they have to pay the past-due invoices for the work we did after Hurricane Irene, or we won’t send any line crews to Connecticut now. He said, ‘Our Accounts Payable department is kind of slow these days, but if you dispatch your crews right now, I promise I’ll pay you for everything next week.’ Then I said, ‘Sorry, we can’t do that. It’s not that we don’t trust you, Mr. Butler, it’s just that we, um, don’t trust you.’”
The word “said” was used twice, and it is the perfect word to use in this instance because it conveys exactly what the first gentleman said and then what the second gentleman said in reply.
A few years ago I noticed that many people have forsaken the use of the word “said” and instead prefer to substitute the words “go” and “goes” to communicate what was spoken.
The previous conversation is now rendered thus: “I told him we won’t send any line crews to Connecticut now. So he goes, ‘If you dispatch your crews right now, I’ll pay you for everything next week.’ Then I go, ‘Sorry, we can’t do that, Butler. We don’t trust you.’”
I’m not sure where this “go” and “goes” thing came from, as I’m pretty sure during the conversation both parties were either standing or sitting still. No one was actually going anywhere at the time. (Although just the other day Mr. Butler did go somewhere: out the door. The poor dear will have to survive somehow on a multi-million dollar severance and retirement package as “punishment” for his colossal bungling.)
The “He goes” and “I go” way of speaking is bad enough. But now there is a new, even more annoying way of avoiding the word “said.” It is the dreaded “like.”
Here’s that same conversation: “I told him we won’t send any line crews to Connecticut now. So he’s like, ‘Oh pleeeease, if you dispatch your crews right now, I’ll pay you for everything next week.’ Then I’m like, ‘Yeah right, pal. Fool me once, you know? No can do, Butler. We don’t trust you as far as we can throw a refrigerator up a flight of stairs!’ Then he’s like, ‘Wah wah, blah blah blah.’ And then I, like, just hung up on him.”
I’ve noticed that whenever someone uses the word “like” instead of “said,” the way he or she relates the prior conversation ends up being nothing “like” what was originally said. It’s almost as if the use of the word “like” gives the person a license to embellish the story. What he said was sort of “like” this, and my reply was sort of “like” that. So in other words, I’m making the whole thing up.
You would think that as an Irishman who often embellishes stories, I would like this “like” technique. But actually I don’t like like and I’d like people to stop liking like so much.
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