On Poetry and Culture Shock


I should not blog about this, because the longer Spaniards don't know about it, the better.

The use of fillers or tags, that is, words or expressions that don't mean anything at all but act as a verbal tic, is a sign of poor vocabulary and a lazy mind. Fillers should be avoided like the plague. Even so, they are a necessity for the foreign language learner because when we are not perfectly fluent, the occasional tag gives us time to remember the next word. Many years ago, when my English started to be good enough to have a stuttering conversation, I even had a few lessons on hesitation tecniques. Back then, we knew nothing about the American "like"; I don't know if that "like" didn't exist yet, or if my teachers werre ignoring American English.

The American "like" reminds me a bit of the Spanish “o sea”. In normal conditions, "o sea" means "that is, which means, therefore". But now, together with “¿no?” (isn’t it?) and “¿sabes?” (you know), it is a very distinctive sign of posh young women's speech. If you're reading this from Spain, that's the closest comparison: las niñas pijas americanas meten "like" cada tres palabras.

Sometimes “like” means “kind of”, sometimes it means “approximately”, "around", "about", and sometimes, it means nothing at all. It is a grammatically wrong but semantically correct substitution of "as if". It often introduces someone else's reported speech. It looks clearer with an example: This blog is, like, thematic. I’ve been blogging for, like, seven months. A friend asked me, like, why I write in English instead of Spanish. See?

The worst and more dangerous thing about this very irritating verbal tic is that it is contagious! Spending too much time with like-abusers makes you talk like them even when you're making a conscious effort to speak properly.

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