Karl the Curmudgeon Hates, Like, Whatever

Karl the Curmudgeon Hates, Like, Whatever

"OMG," said Karl. "Did you see the list of the most annoying words of the year?"

Did you just say 'OMG,' Karl? I asked.

"I was being ironic," said Karl.

Yeah, ironic. Whatever, dude. I took a drink of my beer. We were sitting in Holv Utca, a Hungarian bar and grill, enjoying a couple rounds of Dreher, a Hungarian beer. We were watching the Hungarian national soccer league on satellite TV. Fradi was playing Ujpest, and the score was 2-1 — a real barn burner.

"No, seriously," he protested. "Didn't you hear about the new Marist Poll that covered the most annoying words and phrases of 2010?" "'Like' was second with 28 percent, and your. . . 'whatever'" — he said it with a sneer — "was first with 39 percent."


"Don't give me that, Kid. I know better than to actually use 'like' as a verbal filler.

You said 'OMG.' What are you, a 14-year-old girl?

"No, I'm a 60-year-old curmudgeon. That was supposed to be ironic and sarcastic." Karl plonked his beer down on the bar. "Daniel, two more Drehers for me and this annoying punk, please." Daniel, the Hungarian bartender, nodded and poured two more mugs of beer for us.

Yes, but I've heard you use 'like' as verbal filler before. I've even heard you use it instead of 'said,' before.

"Like when," demanded Karl.

You've said things like 'And then the waitress asked if I wanted fries, and I'm, like, 'yes, extra crispy please.'

"Oh, I have not!" We heard Daniel cheer from the other end of the bar when Ujpest scored the tying goal with 15 minutes to go.

You absolutely have. It's a bad habit. Don't worry about it, I do it too.

"Yeah, but you're a slack-jawed yokel. I'm a writer, for God's sake!"

You're so stuck up. I'm a writer too, but that doesn't mean I have to talk like a grammar prude. You can talk any way you want. You just have to make sure your actual writing is clean.

"Absolutely not. I think as writers we need to avoid using poor language, like useless idioms and verbal fillers. A writer should be sharp enough to speak clearly and cleanly."

Whatever. So why is this even important, Karl?

"I just read the poll this morning, and it set my teeth on edge. I just hate it when people twist, abuse, and mangle the English language. Whether someone uses the wrong word, or twists the meaning of a word, or mutates it into some kind of annoying verbal tic that gets overused by teenagers everywhere."

It sounds like you gave this some thought, actually.

"You're killing me, Kid! You're killing me. 'Actually' was fifth on the list with 5 percent."

Jeez, Marist just hates regular every day usage of our language. It sounds like they're just trying to use some kind of news bait to get themselves some media coverage. You know what I mean?

"Gaaah! 'You know what I mean' came in at 15 percent!"

Really? To tell you the truth—

"Ten percent!"

—I actually read the same poll. I was just doing this to annoy you.

Karl plonked his beer on the bar again, sloshing some over the side. "Now why would you do that?"

It's what I do best, I said, giving him a sinister grin.

"But aren't you in the least bit annoyed by some of the words people are overusing and abusing?"

Oh, absolutely. My oldest daughter uses the word 'like' all the time. She quit saying 'said,' she doesn't say 'uh,' and she will double up on 'like' when she means 'such as.' As in 'I think baby animals are cute, like, like puppies and kittens.'

"Does she really say stuff like that?" asked Karl, his mouth hanging open.

Well, not the part about baby animals, but everything else.

"And how do you feel about it?"

Bugs the bejeezus out of me.

"Do you hassle her about it the same way?"

No, I'm much harder on you about it.


To tell you the truth, I actually just get a kick out of, like, annoying you. You know what I mean?


Whatever, dude.

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