We were at a Thai restaurant the other night, and near us was a table of four folks in their early twenties. One of them – a dark-haired woman – was clearly the dominant conversationalist, and as we overheard her chatter, I found myself idly noticing certain features of her speech. Telling stories to her friends at the table, she related everything in terms of conversation. Rather than saying that so-and-so did something, she’d describe what she said, or he said.
But people in her world don’t “say” anything. Everything was and he goes…and she went…so I go. So I found myself wondering whether she use any word other than “go” to introduce conversations and was almost certain the answer was “no” – when at one point, I heard her say, “And I’m like…” So was there another alternative?
No – it turns out “like” is the word one uses to describe thoughts, rather than actual (or putative) conversation: And I go, Sandy, that’s so gross, and I was like, what was she thinking…
I think of it in terms of cartoon balloons: “go” is the smooth-lined elliptical speech balloon, while “like” is the cloudlike, puffy balloon used to show, for example, cartoon animals’ thoughts.