Crucial Minutia
it's the little things...
Cristina Pippa
All the World: Then Jesus was like…
4 Comments | posted March 29th, 2007 at 09:24 am by Cristina Pippa

PRIEST: So the Pharisees brought this adultress before Jesus, and they were like, “Adultery is punishable by stoning. Are you gonna break that law?” And Jesus was like, “Yo, whoever is without sin can be the one to cast the first stone.” Then Jesus was totally alone with this woman and he was all, “Who are your accusers?” And she was like, “No man, Lord.” So Jesus was like, “I won’t accuse you either. Go, get outta here, and try not to sin.”

Most of my experiences with the Catholic Church have been in Sardinia– where my cousins still celebrate saints’ days because the solemn parading of the saint and his/her relics is usually accompanied by a carnival with giant blocks of torrone and fun houses pumping techno music. So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised last Sunday when I visited a very liberal Catholic Church (yes, it seems that those actually do exist in America) where amid full regalia of cloaks and candles, the priest spoke like he was reporting on a tailgate party the night before.

As your conduit for overheard conversations, I feel responsible for transcribing the way people speak verbatim– and “like” has been making the most frequent appearances for years. To my grave embarrassment, my stepfather used to correct my middle school friends every time they used “like” in a sentence. He maintained that “like” was worse than “um” because it was an abuse of an actual word. So we’d retort with, “But the band wasn’t Pearl Jam– they were like them. We just thought you didn’t want us to say Butthole Surfers at the dinner table.”

I think we’ve gotten out of the valley of using “like” every other word, and as the priest demonstrated on Sunday and Felice quoted from an Avril Lavigne lyric, “like” is most often employed as a performance word. (This is still a stretch for its original purpose, but at least it’s less annoying than something like “They, like, liked it.”) The performer is getting ready to embody someone when they say that “she was like…” They might mimic their voice or gestures and they’re sure to be more animated than if they started the sentence with a simple, “she said…” If they dare to use “she was all…” then they’ve moved beyond “like” into a territory that calls for full staging.

We are not the only country to almost collectively decide to be hosts for a parasite word. Last fall, I noticed that in Germany it was genau and in Sardinia (and perhaps all of Italy) it was minzeca. There’s a certain way that every one says these words too. Genau is quick and typically conjoined with a head nod. Minzeca is more like MIIIIIIINzeca! with an eye roll and some big Italian hand gestures. Add a little torrone on the fingers and a tongue click after the word, and you’ve got it down.

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 29th, 2007 at 9:24 am and is filed under Pop Culture, Music, Religion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

There are currently 4 responses

  1. Actually, as I’ve been recording a lot more interviews than before due to my upgrade to digital, I’ve discovered something upsetting: I say ‘like’ way more than a journalist should. I don’t think people from our generation notice it, since it’s so common, but older people I interview are probably like, “who is this kid?” Not to mention the fact that we now use “is/are like” as a tagline instead of “says.”

    March 29th, 2007 | 2:03 pm
  2. Joe

    I LIKEd this a lot.

    March 29th, 2007 | 4:12 pm
  3. “So Jesus was like” is really funny. I didn’t realize how much I abused the work “like” until a librarian friend of mine got a hold of my manscript. She kept writing in the margins, Do you mean “as if?”

    March 30th, 2007 | 8:54 am
  4. Last fall, I noticed that in Germany it was “gnau”…

    Genau“, surely - meaning ‘exactly’?

    April 10th, 2007 | 11:34 am

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