I was in Memphis recently, and while in the comedy club lobby before a show, I heard a young couple talking.  I wasn't eavesdropping, but I did hear the girl say "like seriously".  Not just once but several times. Apparently she wanted her date to know that she wasn't kidding, or only slightly kidding, or just a tad bit honest, or whatever the hell "like seriously" is supposed to mean.  

I'm sure whatever she was talking about was riveting, because anyone who ends a statement with "like seriously" has to be discussing some pretty significant stuff.  "Syria is blocking the International Atomic Energy Agency from investigating other locations that may be nuclear weapon sites, which is only going to produce a ripple effect of xenophobic speculation and saber rattling in the region. . . Like seriously."  

The good news is that if this catches on beyond the realm of youth talk, it could be incredibly useful to all sorts of people.  Given that the phrase basically implies that there's only a chance of seriousness, then people should cash in.  If a newspaper reporter gets the scoop on a story that he has a feeling is true but isn't quite sure yet, he could either sit on it until his sources are confirmed, OR….he could report it immediately and then just end it with "like seriously".  Thereby telling anyone listening that he's accurate….maybe. 

Men and women could profess their love for each other and not mean it.  Think of all the money Hallmark could make with cards that read, "I Love You, Like Seriously."  What a gold mine! 

And seeing as how teenagers use the phrase the most, they should reap the most benefit.  Term papers need not be researched as diligently as they used to. Every footnote could simply read "Like seriously".  If the fact in question turns out to be false, they're still covered. 

Okay, I think I've made my point.  My buddy Jesse gives me a hard time for sounding like an old man when I bitch and complain about how people talk these days.  His argument is, "We don't speak the King's English anymore, do we? Language evolves, so it's best to roll with it."  I agree that language evolves, but usually when it happens, it's seen everywhere.  As much as Jesse may want to believe otherwise, I have a hard time thinking the words "like seriously" will appear on insurance forms and car titles…"You own this automobile…like seriously." Maybe when your quasi-ownership is misunderstood, you can explain to the repo man that language is evolving. 

I know that I often sound like a grumpy 80-year-old screaming at kids to get off my lawn, so to be sure…please know that I'm laughing at this more than I am troubled by it. 

In fact, this generation should be applauded for their ability to improve their lives through simplified speech.  They all do it.  When a 13-year-old boy won the National Spelling Bee last week, I was shocked that he was American.  Not because I think our kids aren't as intelligent as those from other countries.  But because I didn't think we had any teens left in this country who spelled out entire words without using abbreviations, LOL. 

I agree with Jesse that language and speech patterns change over time. I'm not that crotchety yet.  We see it all the time because on some level we're all guilty of oversimplifying the way we talk.  

How many times have we struggled to find the perfect word to use, and then just opted for a facial expression to convey an adjective.  "Did you see Charlene this morning? She was really …. (mind scrambles through mental thesaurus for three seconds before you grab your hair with both hands, bug out your eyes, and yell through clenched teeth)."  Remarkably, the other person doesn't question your nonverbal description because they know that of course you meant to say that Charlene was "tense and overwrought with stress".  Besides, who needs words to communicate when a sideways emoticon within an email can do the trick just fine? 

Or how about our communication patterns when we wake up?  We used to say "good morning". Over the years, it changed to just "morning". Now, it's perfectly acceptable to nod your sleepy head upward or put forth one single inaudible grunt. "Mmmph."

Maybe I am a grumpy old man years ahead of his time of being crabby. Or maybe I'm just tuned in to the odd absurdities of life more than others. Either way, thanks for reading. I truly appreciate your continued support. Like seriously.

Categories: Columns