1483: Quotative Like

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Quotative Like
God was like, "Let there be light," and there was light.
Title text: God was like, "Let there be light," and there was light.


In this comic, Megan mentions an article on the use of the word "like" as a quotative. Cueball makes a joke on this by managing to use the word "like" three times in a seven word sentence.

The "quotative like" is regularly given as an example of the decline of the English language. It is used to introduce a quotation or impersonation, although what follows may not be a verbatim quote, but rather conveys the general meaning of the original phrase. Although it is modern in terms of the English language, examples of its use can be found all the way back in 1928. The song "Cobwebs" by the American singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III blames Jack Kerouac and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis character Maynard G. Krebs for starting the vogue of using the word "like" as a quotative. In the early 1980s, the stereotypical Valley Girl made substantial use of the quotative like, which may be the main origin of its contemporary use.

In the second panel Megan mentions that, in a newspaper article, the linguist Patricia Cukor-Avila is like: "Eventually all the people who hate this kind of thing are going to be dead, and the ones who use it are going to be in control."

The author is presumably making the point that language is inherently fluid, and the meanings of words exist only by common understanding, which means that, as more and more people grow up with the new usage, it will become increasingly accepted. Most resistance will come from the older generation, which means it will diminish over time. While it has long been popular to criticize modern developments that are seen as steps backward (see 1227: The Pace of Modern Life), such criticisms are usually in vain, as they are typically made by the older generation against the younger generation, and the latter is always guaranteed to outlive the former[citation needed].

The quote, however, doesn't actually say why the older generation will die out, leading Cueball to speculate that Dr. Cukor-Avila is plotting (or warning of) some sort of genocide against people who dislike the use of the quotative like. Megan points out a much more likely interpretation (although this is not mentioned directly in the article), that those people will die of old age, but Cueball persists, saying he'll err on the side of caution and make sure to use the quotative like more often, thereby hoping to be spared from the genocide.

The title text applies quotative like to the Book of Genesis (specifically, Genesis 1:3: "God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light"), the first book of the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh) and the Christian Old Testament. When researching the history of language etymologists take great effort to find the earliest usage of a word or phrase, which may be used to show a historical precedence.


[Megan referring to a published article she is holding.]
Megan: I found this article on the linguistics of the "Quotative Like".
Cueball: Like, when you're like, "She was like"?
Megan: Yeah.
Megan: It features a quote from a linguist, Patricia Cukor-Avila: "Eventually all the people who hate this kind of thing are going to be dead, and the ones who use it are going to be in control."
Cueball: Wow. Turns out linguists are pretty hardcore.
Megan: I think she means dead from old age.
Cueball: I'm gonna start using "like" more, just in case.

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That second panel is, like, depressing. 05:19, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

I found the article. Piderman (talk) 05:53, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

Cool, added it. Thanks. PinkAmpersand (talk)

God also introduced a new concept "light" and was quicker implementing it throughout the world. And light sounds similar to (like) like. Sebastian -- 08:58, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

Are there any other examples of actual living people who are not celebrities being name-checked in xkcd? Andries (talk) 13:23, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

Given that the article noted that the next generation would be, quote, "in control," I think Cueball's interpretation is...well, slightly less absurd than it would be otherwise. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

«Cueball: Like, when you're like, "She was like"?» What does that mean? --RenniePet (talk) 15:23, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

Closest translation: "For example, when you say 'she said...'" Andyd273 (talk) 15:37, 6 February 2015 (UTC)
Non-English analogon

It might interest you that in Germany exactly the same phenomenon exists, only in different flavor: the lower caste using "Digger" (like, "Fatso") as each third word, possibly in lieu of a comma. (Appears not yet in written material.) Anyone forced to overhear such a conversation is tempted to smack them in the face - hey, it works on a stuck record needle too :-) 13:38, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

That has like nothing to do with it. The German analogue is "so" ("Ich so: Kein Scheiss! Dann sie so: Sicher, Mann!"). -- 11:47, 8 February 2015 (UTC)
The *grammatical* analogue, granted. I talked about the *sociological* analogue. 11:37, 9 February 2015 (UTC)

The quotative like has also spread to colloquial Hebrew: youngsters include the word "c'ilu" ("as if", or "like") at every opportunity. It frequently makes having a conversation about exact topics very difficult. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

A similar phenomenon also exists in colloquial Greek: young people generally use the phrase "σε φάση" (in phase) in a similar way. For example, 'he was like, "what do you mean?"' => 'ήταν σε φάση, "τι εννοείς;"', which means 'he was in the/a phase, "what do you mean?"', or I guess more naturally in English, 'he was in a "what do you mean?" phase'. 22:24, 15 September 2020 (UTC)

I vote that the explain be rewritten to incorporate as many uses of this phenomenon as possible. 22:06, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

Do you mean like: "In this comic, Megan like mentions an article on like the use of the word "like" as, like, a quotative, like. Cueball, like, makes a joke on this by, like,managing to use the word "like" like three times in like a seven word sentence, like. The "quotative like" is like regularly given as like an example of like the decline of the English language, like. It is used to like introduce a quotation or impersonation, although what follows may not be a like "verbatim" like quote, but rather conveys the like general meaning of the original phrase, like." Plm-qaz snr (talk) 02:52, 7 February 2015 (UTC)
Yeah, like that. I like it. Bentinata (talk) 04:19, 9 February 2015 (UTC)
TVTropes already did it. (Then again, what didn't they?) 11:37, 9 February 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for the censorship Davey... I made a comment in line with the same jokes that were already and still are accepted in these comments. I was going to start being a regular contributer and join the community of a comic I love; but since you insist on censoring comments, not vandalism of article, but COMMENTS, I find it hard to want to be part of such a community. 18:10, 9 February 2015 (UTC)

Unless I missed something, Davidy22 has just moved your comment to the bottom of the discussion section (See it a few lines up). As a guideline new comments go at the bottom of the discussion section, unless you are responding to an existing comment, in which case put it below the existing comment and indent it with a colon. People new to the site aren't expected to know these things immediately, so maybe Davidy could have put a comment summary to explain why he moved the comment. Hopefully this explains what has happened, and comments won't be censored unless they are clearly offensive/spam/etc. I for one hope you stick around and join our community. --Pudder (talk) 23:19, 9 February 2015 (UTC)
I appologize Davidy22. Thanks for the heads up Pudder. 16:21, 11 February 2015 (UTC)

I grew up with the quotative 'like' and I don't really notice it, the way you barely notice punctuation. It structures a sentence but isn't meaningful in and of itself so it's never the front of my focus. I suspect part of the sociological effect is just familiarity, where if you're raised in an environment that adheres to prescriptive language it's jarring because it sounds like a malformed sentence, whereas if you're used to the quotative like you aren't even really aware of it and anyone who points it out is committing a faux pas roughly equivalent to bothering you for pausing, saying 'um', or having a regional accent. Singlelinelabyrinth (talk) 18:49, 26 July 2020 (UTC)