February 13, 2004

Grammar critics are, like, annoyed really weird

According to Andrea Petersen on the WSJ wire, "grammar critics are annoyed" at the continued and even growing use of like. The prize for critical annoyance goes to "Katie Schwartz, a speech pathologist in Chattanooga, Tenn.", whose "'Sense Cues' kit trains speakers to associate the smell of something they don't like with remembering to delete superfluous 'likes' from their conversation." So says the article, anyhow. I don't know how it is in Chattanooga, but a speech pathologist who tried to get Philly kids to change their speech habits by spraying them with patchouli would soon be picking bits of atomizer out of her dentures.

Googling "sense cues" reveals that Schwartz' kit is part of a program for "corporate speech pathology" that "helps determine which sense will most aptly cue a client to work on a specific behavior by testing all five. Once the dominant sense is established, the client can focus on using the cues every day until cues are no longer necessary." A full-spectrum approach, apparently: unpleasant noises, ugly ties, bad food and clammy handshakes as well as the bad smells. I've spent time in workplaces like that, though it didn't occur to me that the experience would improve my behavior.

Although Petersen features like use by a sixth-grade teacher in New York and 78-year-old Scottish women, she missed the most famous like user of the year: God Himself. Somehow I don't think Pat Robertson whipped out his "Sense Cues" kit to find the best sensory modality for reminding the Almighty to work on his diction.

Posted by Mark Liberman at February 13, 2004 06:12 PM