Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I diss like: A plea to authors

I, like, don’t like like in real-life conversation or, like, books, but at least in real life, you can, like, look at the person you’re talking to or, like, think about the sound of his or her voice, or stare into, like, space to, like, take your mind off your interlocutor’s grating conversational tics. Not so when like is on the page. Then you’re, like, stuck with it.

 So, authors: Please find another way to indicate your character is, like, self-consciously hip  or delightfully footloose or drug-addled or a beatnik or younger than 30. Or give your character one like, let your protagonist or narrator roll his or her eyes, then leave the rest to the reader’s imagination.

Like, thanks.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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37 Comments:

Blogger Glenna said...

Like, I'm curious, what did you read to inspire this post?

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Lah @ Lazy Girl Reads said...

Haha! Agreed.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Vanda Symon said...

I like this, and couldn't resist clicking that like button on Friend Feed (-:

As Glenna said, I'm curious as to which bit of writing tipped you over the edge!

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Glenda and Vanda, I've, like, decided, at least for now, to refrain from citing the sources, at least until I write reviews of the books. In isolation, a comment like this could bring scorn on a book that I don't intend.

As it happens, one of the books is one I quite liked, and another is a weaker effort by an author who has done better elsewhere, though my dissatisfaction with the book has almost nothing to do with its likes. It's like, I keep seeing like in the book, and I'm, like, whatever.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Vanda, to like as a verb in the social-media sense is no welcome addition to out lexicon. But it's way better than to friend.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Don Lafferty said...

I have a couple of daughters I'd like you to speak with.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lazy, I think authors who overuse like (or any other word or phrase, I suppose) are not using their ears judiciously. Such exaggeration can have a desirable comic effect, but not, I think, when the word or phrase or characteristic is both as commonplace and as annoying as like.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Don, I bet your daughters would not overuse like if they, like, sat down to write a letter. So why the &^^&&^#%@! should those authors do it in their books?

August 25, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I think in conveying American dialogue in this, our present era, like is appropriate. Much like swearing.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Perhaps, Seana, but in both cases, like was an outsize marker for a single character, and not part of dialogue that, in its totality, conveyed the feeling of a time or a place.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, and one of the books is not American, either in authorship or in setting.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Yes, it's overused. But no, it can be appropriate at rendering American speak as it is.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

If the book has just one character speaking that way, I'm not sure the author has done, or is interested in doing, all that good a job of rendering how Americans speak now. It's more an "Oh, those kooky kids and their sany lingo" thing.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I think for me it depends on whether the author has used it unconsciously or deliberately. Say what you will, it's in the vernacular.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'd say it depends more on how the author assimilates it. An author not of the groups normally use a given word or mode of speech might still incorporate it into a story -- deliberately rather than naturally, that is. But he or she would have to make it seem natural.

August 25, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

It's an irritating habit. It also irritates on the page. However, in this case the same rule applies as for dialect or the f-word: Control its use.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Dana King said...

As conversational tics go, it;s thoroughly unlikable.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Rob Kitchin said...

@ 'I bet your daughters would not overuse like if they, like, sat down to write a letter. So why the &^^&&^#%@! should those authors do it in their books?'

Of course, how people communicate through speech and writing are completely different. If people use 'like' all the time (and I hear it when I talk to students) and you want true to reality dialogue for certain social groups, then 'like' is going to appear a lot, as with 'fuck' etc. Do we really want authors to police the reality of dialogue for the sensibilities of (dare I say it middle aged, middleclass) readers?

If they were writing a letter I'm sure all the use of emoticons, abbreviations and txt speak would drive you crazy instead of the 'likes'!

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I was going to use the f-word as an example. Control it, and it has a greater effect.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, one odd feature is that this particular tick has been surfacing regularly for decades, at least since the 1950s, I would guess. I remember a Dave Berg cartoon in Mad magazine in which a guy's "hang-up" was that "`I like saying `like.'"

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Rob: Yes, we do want authors to police the reality of dialogue. We want them to eliminate the ers and the y'knows and all manner of conversational throat-clearing and circuitous speech, and like has strong affinities with these. Dialogue -- at least good dialogue -- does not reproduce reality. Rather, it gives a covincing illusion of doing so.

August 25, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Amen, Peter! If I want "reality" I'll sit at the local Starbucks all day and watch "reality television" all night, listening to the "realistic" dialogue... and be bored/annoyed out of my skull.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Reality" and "authenticity" are highly overrated.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Rob: Good dialogue should distill and refine reality, heighten it, even, not reproduce it. That's how authors remain true to reality.

August 25, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Reality and authenticity are important in issues of cultural heritage (attribution and interpretation, for ex.), but not in fiction, I agree.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I would always wonder when some reviewer lauded a work's "authenticity" how the hell that reviewer knew what was authentic and what wasn't. I especially noticed this when a reviewer, I think in the New York Times, said a play of David Mamet's accurately captured the language and vocal cadences of Great Lakes bargemen. (Given the source, though, the reviewer could have been communicating the unspoken message that "I, as a representative of this publication, am a man who has seen much.")

August 25, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

not forgetting:
knowha'msayin'
or
to be honest with you ('like', optional)

August 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Frankly."

August 27, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

what about the superfluous words:

"at this very moment in time"
and
"any way, shape or form"

both of which, frankly, cause me to gnash and grind my teeth whenever I hear them

August 27, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

actually, I've just remembered a favourite of Waterford hurling manager, Davy Fitzgerald:
"so we are"/"so I am"/"so it is", generally at the end of every sentence
He's brilliant at the emphatic 'dramatic pause', also

August 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"so we are"/"so I am"/"so it is"

That's an Irish thing, isn't it? And would that be the manager whose team I saw demolished by Kilkenny, 3-30 to 1-13 in the 2--8 all-Ireland final?

August 27, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

The very one, so it was!

August 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Your man Davy Fitgerald?

And that as 2008, not 2--8, of course.

I did learn something of what I presume was a Waterford accent from listening to the moaning throughout the match. I was sitting in a section of Waterford supporters, one of whom said, "Ahfer foegh's sake!" several times.

August 27, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Yep, it was Davy Fitzgerald was the manager of that Waterford team, so it was.
South Tipp, where I'm from, Waterford, and South Kilkenny have almost identical accents.
It can be difficult to separate us, even by practiced ears, so it can!

August 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I spent more time among Waterforders than among Kilkennyites before, during and, I think, after the match as well, when I heard the following outside a pub on O'Connell Street:

"The first two minutes were excitin'. Then it got a bit shite, didn't it?"

August 27, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Yep, all downhill from the 2nd minutes, for the Waterford lads.
They got another pasting, from us this time, in this year's Munster Final
By seven clear goals

Next week sees the third consecutive Final meeting between Tipp and Kilkenny; both the previous games were closely-fought top quality games, as this is expected to be
(hopefully my neighbour will have that ticket for me)

August 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And that means that this is at least the sixth consecutive final for Kilkenny. Their fortunes are high, I'd say.

Here’s the post I put up after the 2008 final, by the way.

August 27, 2011  

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