…by which I mean Valley Girls, yes.
And by “oral storytelling traditions” I do not mean the stories that begin with “sing in me muse” or even “once upon a time”, but rather those that begin “oh my God*, dude,” or sometimes “no shit, there I was”. Sometimes people storm out of restaurants. Sometimes people start fistfights in order to defend the superiority of Pearl Jam. Sometimes, in the words of Cordelia Chase, you need to call everyone you know right now , and when you do that, there’s a particular idiom for relating the cause of that phone call.
See, I just finished John McWhorter’s What Language Is –excellent book, by the way–and the section in there on “she’s all” made me think of Sarah Bunting’s excellent point about “like”:
My mother never grasped the distinction here, but “say” is for what people say. “Like” is for what people meant, for their faces, for their attitudes, for everything you can’t see for yourself when you hear about something secondhand. I have often said, “Okay, great,” but been like, “God, whatever.”
Pretty much. Except that I also use “I’m like” and “she’s all” for another, related purpose: when I don’t remember verbatim what was said, but still want to convey the general gist of it. “…and I’m like ‘well, fine, then, can I go home now’?”
And it occurred to me, when thinking about this, that you–or at least I–pretty much never use the standard written conventions when telling these stories. “He said ‘blah'” does not come up a lot.** Rather, there are four basic forms. The three others:
1) Summary. “…and she said that she went there a lot.” Nobody cares about the details. They may care about the information–“and he said he’s moving to Kansas tomorrow”–or the information may just be necessary context for subsequent drama, but the manner or attitude really doesn’t matter.
2) Begging for (over)analysis. “So she said ‘I can’t date a guy who’s really into the Grateful Dead’, and I’m wondering if she means she can’t date a guy who likes the Dead at all, or just that she can’t date a guy who, like, follows the tour in a modified VW bus.”
This is the closest to standard dialogue tag stuff, but it nearly always has elaboration afterwards. “And I’m wondering,” or “…so…do you think…” or whatever.
3) Verbatim. Sometimes you *do* care exactly what So-and-So said to What’s-her-Face. Usually this is because So-and-So’s wording was dramatic/obnoxious/otherwise noteworthy in and of itself. Therefore, sentences like this take a parenthetical. “He said, I swear to God…” or “He said, and I am completely serious here…”
When telling a friend about the Worst Date Ever, you may use all four, as follows:
“So he mentioned Depeche Mode and I said that yeah, they had some good songs.
To which he said, and I’m not even kidding, ‘They really speak to the darkness in my soul. My last girlfriend couldn’t understand that.’
And I’m all ‘Oh, that’s nice, great to meet you, I just remembered I have to go and…wash my…fish.’
The thing is, earlier in the evening, he said, ‘I think a girl like you could really understand where I’m coming from,’ so do you think I’m sending off that kind of vibes? Should I wear less eyeliner?”
And now you know!
*At some point, I may write another post on the different inflections and meanings of “oh my God”. Yes, this was totally worth the student loans. Really.