Dennis Lehane is one of America’s best popular novelists. He’s authored many best sellers, including those turned into movies: Mystic River, Gone, Baby, Gone, and Shutter Island.
The following, a brief but pointed critique of the English language decline, is a slightly edited excerpt from Moonlight Mile, published in 2010. The narrator is Patrick Kenzie.
In the student lounge, I met with seven homeroom classmates of Amanda and Sophie. Principal Nghiem and I sat in the center of the room with the girls arrayed before us in a half-circle.
“Amanda was just, ya know,” Reilly Moore said.
“I don’t,” I said.
“Like, ya know.”
“Oh,” I said, “she was like ya know. Now I get it.”
Blank stares, no giggles.
“It’s, like, if you were talking to her,” Brooklyn Doone said, “she, like, listened? But if you waited for her to tell you stuff, like, who she dug or what apps were on her iPad or like that? You’d, like, wait a long time.”
The girl beside here, Coral or Crystal, rolled her eyes. “For, like, ever.”
“Like, ev-er,” another girl said, and they all nodded in agreement.
“What about her friend, Sophie?” I asked.
“That chick was wannabe-dot-com.”
“I heard she, like, tried to list you as her friend on her Facebook page.”
Five thousand years of civilization, more or less, twenty-three hundred years since the libraries of Alexandria, over a hundred years since the invention of flight, wafer-thin computers at our fingertips, which can access the intellectual riches of the globe, and judging by the girls in that room, the only advance we’d made since the invention of fire was turning like into an omni-word, useful as a verb, a noun, an article, the whole sentence if need be.