Category: Language

IDEAS Amanda Montell is the author of Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language . In 2016, I was offered a promo code to test out a new app designed to help young people talk without filler phrases like you know and like , so they could sound more “authoritative.” I tried not to take the offer personally. For decades, like has been a subject of deep linguistic ridicule — along with vocal fry and uptalk , it is probably the most recognizable aspect of “Valley girl speak.” When making fun of teenage girls, imitators go for these sorts of phrases: “I, like, went to the movies? And I was like, ‘I want to see Superwoman?’ But Brad was like, ‘No way?’ So we, like, left.” (I’m not certain why people love satirizing teen girls so much , but my theory is that it’s just an excuse to speak in this highly entertaining fashion.) Fortunately, there are plenty of language experts who’ve taken “Valley girl” speak seriously enough to figure out what it actually is. One of these scholars is Carmen Fought , a linguist from Pitzer College, who says, “If women do something like uptalk [...]

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