Have you ever noticed how often the word like is used today? At least in the US, it crops up continually in all but the most formal of conversations. Furthermore, its once simple scope in similes and preferences has been stratospherically increased in the past two decades; like now commonly replaces ummm in the filler-word department, and about in the approximation sector. However, the most notorious and inexplicable use is best represented by an example:
Patsy: "So, what did Woodrow say?"
Agatha: "He was like, 'I have ridiculous allergies, man.'"
As you can see, the utilitarian word is now used to report speech, as well. The older generations, generally, and my father, specifically, rail against this development. They speak of the good-old-days and lament this base corruption of Shakespeare's language. However, suppose I shout over their mumbling to offer an alternative point of view. Regretfully, I shall have to resort to Latin to do so.
During my few years as a high-school Latin student, I came across across a bizarre set of verbs called deponents. Shunned by other verbs for their treachery, they were forced into hiding and thus missed the boat which carried over all the others into modern languages. It may seem a trifle hard on the deponent clan, but you hear of their true nature, all your sympathy will vanish forthwith. You see, deponents can only have passive forms ("he is called" instead of "he calls") but they are always translated as active. Such in-born deceit clearly labels them as objects of disdain.
Only one deponent managed to find a home in English; it lives in the expression non sequitur, which is used to describe something which does not follow logically. In fact, the phrase actually means "it does not follow" in Latin. However, a novice, misled by the guileful deponent, might well translate it as "it is not followed". As you can see, the apparently passive verb is quite active indeed.
Now, how does all this concern the present usage of like? If you look back at our sample discourse, you will see a construction which resembles the passive voice: "he was like" instead of "he likes" or something to that effect. I suggest that like is the first true deponent verb of the English language (sequitur isn't really an English word). Clearly, it has an active meaning, normally "he said." And clearly, its construction resembles the passive much more than the active voice. How exciting it is, that a deponent should have developed - quite of its own accord, in an environment previously devoid of such things!
I hope you have enjoyed my thoughts on this language of ours, and I hope too that one day, when leafing through the Oxford English Dictionary, I will come upon the following entry:
like /laik/ (is like, was like, has been like) -v.intr.deponent: (foll. by direct quotation) (forms other than present and simple past rare)
1 to say. 2 colloq. to express or impart, either vocally or otherwise.
Note: a majority of the Usage Panel requires that a direct quotation, rather than an action or onomatopoeic outburst, succeed this verb, except in the case of informal conversation.
--Note: Guys, this write-up comprises two parts, a valid grammatical concept and a silly linguistic postulate. It is for you to decide which is which...
Ichiro2k3 reminds me that to be all is another such "deponent." This is covered more extensively by the next write-up.