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Take Five: Thinking about, like, words

August 10, 2011|By Gene Pepper

Seriously, folks, we need to take a look at word power. So much is fast communication today, so let’s simplify where we can and examine what we are truly saying.

Once in a long-ago classroom, an English teacher admonished her class with this statement: “Class, we need to discuss your usage of words. One is swell, the other is lousy.” A sigh passed through the room as one student raised his hand and said, “Yes, Mrs. Jenkins, but what are the words?”

Take the words “like,” and “kinda.” You know, like, I might do that, but I kinda don’t want to. These have become idioms in every conversation. “To go” has replaced “to say,” as in “He goes…” describing a conversation.

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Perhaps these new phrases came out of the sports world in those wonderful 10-second TV sound bites. For example:

1. “Well, he was throwing me fast balls like the first two times I was at the plate. I kinda was hoping for a better pitch. Then the third at bat, I kinda knew what I was going to see, like, I was kinda waitin’ on him — and BAM — outta here."

2. “Me and my caddie, Jimbo Bones, like, we enjoy playing here at Twinkle Toes Golf Resort but that fourth hole is a toughie. Jimbo, like, tells me, ‘Hey, the green breaks toward Indio.’ I go, ’I didn’t know that already?’”

3. “So, I go, ’You’re wrong, Ref. I never stepped out of bounds.’ He goes, ’Yeah, I saw youse go out.’ I sorta blew up. I go, ’Ref, you must be really hot out here.’ So, then I go, ’Here’s some help.’ I took off my helmet and began fanning air in the guy’s face. He t’rows me outta da game."

Speaking of definite articles — I’m beginning to hear the word “da” used in everyday conversation.

I didn’t write “duh.” Although this word, if it is a word, is now firmly entrenched in our language. Like I used to bring it in occasionally, but now as a writer, I kinda need to employ high-level words.

Nevertheless, “da face” does mean “the face.” It doesn’t mean “deface,” like marking up and ruining an object so that it can’t be used anymore.

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