Was like is now proper English

Just listening to conversations around, it’s quite clear to me that “was like” to mean “said” is now almost universal usage.  I have never consciously used it non-ironically but it’s the sort of construction that creeps into language almost unnoticed.

I realised recently that it’s not actually a direct replacement for “said”. “Said” is followed by direct speech: an exact repetition of what is being reported as having been said.

“Was like” is much more flexible. It implies a reporting of the meanings exchanged – including, crucially, any gestures or facial expressions, not merely the exact words.  So

“And he was like, you kidding me right, innit?” could merely mean that he had raised an incredulous eyebrow.

It’s a much more expressive and fluent way of conveying reported speech that the dreadfully clumsy indirect reported speech in a subordinate clause we are supposed to use.

So I’m like, it’s so cool how English changes.


About ejoftheweb

I'm a freelance intellectual property consultant and a self-taught Java programmer with a bee in his bonnet about trust, transparency, liberty-and-liberalism and all things free, fair and open-source. I am at my happiest when I am dancing.
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