IN OUR job of interviewing Hollywood stars, one of the biggest challenges is tr anscribing the interviews and making some celebrities sound coherent. In addition to wading through so many "You know" and "I think" remarks, our tas k is made harder by the stars' predilection for using jargon that is unintellig ible or has not yet made it to the masses' consciousness. (There are some stars though who are a dream to transcribe. They speak complete , coherent sentences.) So it was with great pleasure that we read Patricia T. OâConner's essay on the new use of the word "like" in the July 15, 2007 issue of the New York Times' Su nday magazine. Those who read our column (thank you) have probably noticed that more and more stars are using "like" as in, "I was like, 'Come on, I donât hav e that big of an ego.'" We used to grapple with this dilemmaÂ -- should we replaceÂ the words "was like " with âsaid"? But not anymore. As Patricia wrote in her wonderful essay:
â¦Like definitely has legs. In just a generation or so it has sprea d throughout much of the English-speaking world. O.K., the new like is hot and itâs useful, but is it legit? Aren't some rules o f grammar or usage being broken here? Linguists and lexicographers say no. It's natural, they say, for words to take on new roles. In this case, a "content word" (one that means something) has bec ome a "function word" (one that has a grammatical function but little actual me aning). Academics call the process "grammaticalization." It's one of the ways l anguage changes. So is the new like proper English? Well, the latest editions of The American He ritage Dictionary of the English Language and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dict ionary now include it as a usage heard in informal speech. That's not a ringing endorsement, but it's not a condemnation either.I e-mailed this essay to my two teenage daughters. I wrote, "I just have to sha re this piece with you. When I first read it, I was like, I have to share this with Nikki and Ella." By the way, one of our pleasures whenever we are in New York on a weekend is wa king up and reading the Sunday edition of the Times. Unwashed and our hair look ing like porcupine quills, we stagger from the hotel bed and dare show ourselve s to the world as we open the door and pick up our thick, promising copy of the Times.