The Negative Canon: Quotative ‘Like’

This post is one in a series about The Negative Canon.

Stan Carey says it all here.


Filed under The Negative Canon

6 responses to “The Negative Canon: Quotative ‘Like’

  1. On the other hand, so does Catherine Tate (Warning – contains the F-word at the end) –


  2. Indeed. Pity she doesn’t seem to be doing much these days.


    • I’m too old for quotative like but certainly use what I would call filler like, what I think they’re calling discourse like at Sentence First, although I hope in relative moderation. This is a lot older than some people seem to think; I remember studiously learning to use it in my hippy days, then just as studiously trying to ‘unlearn’ it later.

      But it goes back earlier than that: fairly recently I heard it on a recording of Beyond Our Ken from December 1961 – ‘You mean like what’s my name’, together with other jive talk expressions such as ‘hepcat’ and ‘ way out man’.


      • Older even than that. The OED’s 7th definition of ‘like’ is:

        ‘Used parenthetically to qualify a preceding statement: = ‘as it were’, ‘so to speak’.

        It prefaces that definition with ‘dialect and vulgar’, and follows it with ‘also, colloquial (orig. U.S.), as a meaningless interjection or expletive.’

        The earliest supporting citation is from Fanny Burney’s ‘’Evelina’, published in 1778:

        ‘Father grew quite uneasy, like, for fear of his Lordship’s taking offence.’

        There’s also this rather appealing citation from 1966:

        ‘As we say pragmatically in Huddersfield, “C’est la vie, like!” ‘


        • Ah, I was subconsciously differentiating between what could be called ‘pre-filler’ like and ‘post-filler’ like, and was thinking only of the former:

          prefiller like – probably from 1950s jive talk
          – There were like a dozen people there.
          – I was just like watching the TV when …

          postfiller like – I would think of as especially associated with Northern dialect and certainly a lot older
          – There were a dozen people there, like .
          – I was just watching the TV, like, when …


  3. Yes, there is a difference, and postfiller ‘like’ may be particularly, but not exclusively, northern.


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