He Seemed Like, “No Way!”
Posted by Neal on November 15, 2004
The discussion of seem that I linked to last week has just gotten even more interesting. In this post, Mark Liberman brings in a thought from Maryellen MacDonald regarding usages of seem like this one that Liberman quotes:
My husband and myself meet with a lawyer this past Monday. He seems like I really have a case and should not have any problem.
MacDonald’s thought is that the like after the seem might not be the like that follows seem in more typical sentences such as:
This movie seems like a good one to rent.
Instead, it might be none other than our good friend quotative like, better known from sentences like this one:
He was like, “Get outta here!”
I don’t know if this is really what’s going on, but it makes a lot of sense. If like after be can indicate someone’s state of mind, then why can’t it indicate your best guess as to someone’s state of mind if you use it with seem? If such a generalization is really going on, I predict we’ll see sentences with like following other linking verbs, like these:
- She’s becoming like, “What’s taking them so long?”
- Whenever you get mad, you get like, “I don’t care what anyone thinks!”
And if Doug’s regularization of quotative like to allow extraction is catching on out there, we might even hear stuff like this:
- “I really have a case,” is what he seems like.
- “Get outta here!” That’s what he was like.
- “I don’t care what anybody thinks,” is what you get like.