Now Playing: Fleet Foxes--"Your Protecrot"
I remember when I was in middle school or so that my dad scolded myself and my little brother for constantly using "like" in our conversation (as does pretty much everyone, I suspect, born after 1960 or thereabouts), identifying it as a conversational pollutant. Ever since then, in one way or another, I've been trying, both consciously and subconsciously, to purge it from my daily use. In doing so, I've been wondering how it might have become so prevalent in daily speech. Its most classic use is as the defining word in a simile--"her lips were like a ripe watermelon." The Merriam-Webster Deluxe Dictionary, in a relatively lengthy commentary, mentions that "like" has been in contention for some time as a more syllabically efficient synonym for "as if": "it was like a syphilitic warthog had been given power of attorney." Whatever controversy this usage has attracted is now apparently over six centuries old, so I assume it's entered the language along with just about every other word that comes from non-European or non-Mediterranean environments. I can only conclude that is present ubiquitous form arises from its substitution for "for instance," or "for example," which I suppose has some sort of existential meaning. It does have a pleasant discursive quality that renders unpleasant events or everday annoyances in one's life part of a greater, unfeeling whole or as the whimsy of some blind, drunk, senile god: "So, the other night, like, Jamal totally cock-blocked us at the Eight-Ball." If the universe just hated you, you could feel better. I don't know where the surfers picked uit up, or how it infected the rest of California, and then the country, and then the English-speaking world, and then eventually myself, but I'd love to find out. Anyone have any ideas?
I returned home the other day to find a couple of McCain-Palin yard signs in my front yard. Now, I'm a firm Obama supporter (I've been in the tank to varying degrees since the primaries), and not a big believer in yard signs (I even refuse "I Voted" stickers at the polling booth), but I found it funny more than anything else, especially since McCain's given up on Michigan and a couple more yard signs are going to indicate one's own ineffectiveness rather than aid his cause. My money was on our socially bereft, malodorous Russian housemate, who's been getting the wingnut rag Human Events for the past few months. As I said before, while I'm not a believer in yard signs, I'm just as equally not a believer in tearing them down, as they're someone's legitimate political expression, however moronic or delusional. Making one's own sign, say, one that says "I'm afraid of gays," and then planting it in one's yard with an arrow pointing to the McCain sign, is another matter entirely. Unfortunately, I only thought of that the next day, when I discovered that the signs had been ripped down. I figured they were overzealous Obama supporters or indeed local rowdies opposed to all forms of political involvement (after getting to know some of my co-workers, the latter is much more of a possibility). Whichever, I was hoping my aforementioned housemate would jump to the depressingly obvious conclusion and write to Human Events denouncing a vast socialist, LGBT-ally, baby-killing subversive conspiracy which could be publicized, say, by Jonah Goldberg or someone equally deficient on national television. I don't want to be famous, but it would have been a hoot. Sadly, the sign-planter turned out to be our landlord (who, to be sure, was heard in his shop going on about certain presidential candidates wanting to "take his money and give it to poor people on welfare," or something; substitute "rich" for "poor" and you've got McCain's policy, so I knew that wasn't who he was talking about), and another housemate of mine had ripped them down the first time, after which a couple more were planted, the ones I'd seen. It's just too weird, even when you leave aside the ethics or even the legality--I haven't checked--of one's landlord placing them in a yard he legally owns but where he isn't an on-site resident. If anyone has any information on that, I'd be obliged. Great fun, anyway.