Date: Fri, 14 Jul 1995 14:46:42 -0700


Subject: Re: For "he says", like "he's all" or "he goes" or "he's like" (fwd)

I'm glad the subject of "I'm all..." finally came up. I've been saving

this for the right time. DARE, pay attention.

I cite from the following: Dan Alford, "A New English Language Quotative"

in _Not Just Words: The Newsletter of Transpersonal Linguistics_, Vol II,

No. 2-3, Fall 1982-3 (sic):


There is a new way of introducing "quoted" material which is surfacing in

children in many parts of California -- and I'm wondering if any readers

have spotted it elsewhere. (Remember, you read it first in NJW -- nobody

in discouse has mentioned it yet to my knowledge.)

The fascinating part about the new quotative pattern is that it can be

used to introduce either verbal or non-verbal messages. The subscriber

who first alerted me to this usage, Suzanne Peregoy, had noticed its

usage in Santa Barbara, Berkeley, and other parts of the Bay Area. I

subsequently heard it coming out of the mouth of my own 9-year-old

daughter, who hangs out most of the time up in the mountains of Placerville.

There are two parts to this separable discourse-eme (for lack of a better

word), each of which is followed by the material being quoted:

She's all, "(Quo)". I'm here, "(Quo)". [update: the second doesn't seem

to have lasted]

Again, the quoted material may be non-verbal, as in "S/he's all, '(with

hands on hips and falsetto voice) Why don't you ever do what you're

told?' I'm here, '(feigned nonchalance) la-de-da-de-da'."

Or "She's all, '(demonstrates jittery movements with hands and arms going

in all directions).' I'm here, 'Give me a BREAK and calm down!''

The whole pattern may be repeated once, and perhaps more times.

This construction may signal a new direction in the grammar of English,

or it may simply be an example of pre-pube in-group language. ...


As I type again those words from over a decade ago (of course the old

CP/M Wordstar file it was in has not survived the years. All the

cheery-eyed electronic prognosticators forget the fact that files in old

formats seldom survive transformations), I'm astounded at its accuracy

even now -- little has changed, except it's now "I'm all," "She's all,"

and the original "I'm here" has been lost to arcane linguistic history.

And re: the larger inquiry this belongs to, "I'm like", I just received

this attested sentence on tape from a student in the obligatory

transcript of 5 minutes of unvarnished reality:

"Christina and I went and we were like, 'Excuse me?'"

On Fri, 14 Jul 1995, Peter McGraw wrote:

I forwarded Jim Ague's message on this topic to my son for his amusement,

and think his response might interest some on the list. Any comment from

AAVE specialists out there? (Note: the middle school he refers to [in

Yellow Springs, Ohio] was a harmoniously integrated school in which

middle-class black students were a sizeable minority and seemed to be the


Peter McGraw

Linfield College

McMinnville, OR

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Thu, 13 Jul 95 22:02:49 PDT

From: Patrick McGraw pmcgraw[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]


Subject: Re: For "he says", like "he's all" or "he goes" or "he's like" (fwd)

I suspect these usages are not originally from California, but from Black

English. Especially when I was in Middle School, people would often

follow "He's like" with not just words, but gestures indicating what

someone was doing. The phrase indicates that what follows is an

imitation. "He's all" probably has similar origins-- it can also come

before an adjective or a description, e.g., "He's all pissed 'cause I

didn't invite him." I imagine the usage with a quotation is an extension

of this.