Tuesday, December 27, 2005

It's Open Season On Like, Whatever

Warren, my friend and longtime fellow columnist at Software Development magazine, sent me an interesting essay by Lionel Shriver. In it, she excoriates the use of the word "whatever".

Got me to thinking about the standards of verbal decency here at Maison de Shabby. My eight-year-old son and I both tend to the geeky side (in the manner that a dropped bowling ball tends toward the ground), and so we're constantly picking apart other folks' utterances.

Yeah, I know. But we're fast on our feet, he and I, so we have escaped physical violence thus far.

My wife, no mean wordsmith herself, is less compulsive about rules in general, but certain verbal tics irritate her beyond forbearance. She decided one day that Enough Was Enough, and banned thoughtless use of the word "like" in family conversation. This initially had very little effect on the children's speech...until the day Brendan grinned at her so broadly that she stopped in midsentence.

"Mom", he said, "you said 'like'".

Of course, all she could do was glare and rephrase. The children exchanged looks of wonder and delight. From that moment on, the affair changed from yet another parental precept to a game of Humilate the 'Rents, which is their absolute favorite in the world. The competition is cutthroat, there is no mercy, there are no second chances.

An additional benefit is that I can convulse my children at will merely by uttering the line "So I'm like, whatever..."


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