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Like It or Not, This Slang Word Has 5 More Years

A professor decided to, like, study why young people seem to insert the word like in their sentences. So he asked his students to, like, go forth onto the campus and environs of San Diego State University and capture examples of like usage.

And a rich harvest it was.

An overheard conversation: “So on Friday, Dave and I went out and I had, like, a whole pitcher of beer . . . and went over to Debbie and Laurie’s place . . . I saw, like, this humongous lizard crawling around in the bathroom.”

One girl to another: “Can’t you get, like, a body wave up front?”

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Student to secretary: “Do you have, like, any of those change-of-major forms?”

From several dozen examples, SDSU linguistics professor Robert Underhill concluded that the use of like , although ungrammatical and jarring to the civilized ear, has reason, if not rhyme.

In the upcoming edition of American Speech, a journal of the American Dialect Society, Underhill argues that “nonstandard like is neither random nor mindless. Instead, it functions with great reliability as a marker of new information and focus.”

Translation: When you hear like in a youthful sentence, listen more closely because significant stuff is about to be imparted.

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As an academic interested in modern discourse (and a variant he calls California Speech), Underhill does not pass moral judgments. He neither praises nor condemns.

But to purists, he holds out hope.

“Slang uses like like tend to run in about 20-year cycles before dying out,” Underhill said from his home in Del Mar. “This use of like has been around about 15 years.”

Ruse Swept Under Rug

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You didn’t think a major scam like the ZZZZ Best carpet-cleaning caper could go down without a San Diego angle, did you?

If federal prosecutors are right, San Diego was the scene of one of whiz-kid Barry J. Minkow’s more brazen charades as he built a Los Angeles-based pyramid that snatched $55 million from investors before it tumbled down.

One of Minkow’s favorite tricks, prosecutors say, was to convince big-money investors that he had contracts to install or refurbish carpets in major office buildings.

One such building, they say, was the 8-story 4th Avenue Corporate Center at 4th Avenue and Cedar, just north of downtown San Diego. Everything was fine until a skeptical auditor wanted to see the job site.

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“No problem,” Minkow reportedly said.

Posing as a prospective tenant for the unfinished building, Minkow purportedly talked a San Diego leasing agent into giving him the keys. A few signs were put up, and the auditor was given a tour.

Several months later, however, the auditor reportedly asked for a second tour to see how work was progressing. Whether he was still dubious about Minkow or just wanted to spend a day in San Diego is unclear.

The auditor’s request supposedly caused panic among Minkow and his partners--now described by Minkow’s attorney as Mafia hit men who ruled Minkow by fear.

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Unable to stall much longer, Minkow had operatives sign a seven-year lease on the building, with a $500,000 deposit. In the days before the auditor’s return trip, Minkow spent $1 million on a hurry-up job on the building’s interior.

“The auditor never figured out that he’d been taken,” said L.A. federal prosecutor James Asperger.

The San Diego ruse is now part of a 57-count indictment against the 22-year-old Minkow.

A Bolt From Above

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All the way up Mt. Whitney in the Sierra Nevada, Baptist minister Hans Nikoley prayed for good weather and safety.

He got the good weather--just as Nikoley, his son and brother got to the top of the 14,496-foot peak, the clouds parted and sunshine broke through. The safety, that was different.

As Nikoley was inspecting a geological marker, he was hit by lightning, either by a bolt or the surrounding energy field.

“My hat blew off, my hair stood straight up, it felt like my brain had been fried,” Nikoley said. “I had a strong, strong tingling feeling in my head.”

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Nikoley is back now at Pomerado Road Baptist Church in Poway, where he is the pastor.

He’s preaching a lightning-inspired sermon called “If I Had My Life to Live Over Again” and trying to determine the meaning of it all.

“I think the Lord was trying to tell me something, but I can’t figure out what,” he said.

High-Priced Vice

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The upscale America’s Cup fancier looking for a vantage point to watch the competition might want to consider Miami Vice.

A 41-foot, 900-horsepower Chris Craft 390-X Stinger, which was once a star of the Miami Vice television series and still bears its name, is available for $200 an hour from San Diego Bay Charter Co.

The six-passenger, rainbow-blue craft was sold at auction, and now it’s owned by Sharon and Jonathan Spinney, recent transplants to San Diego from Monterey.

“It’s a little expensive to run, so we only take it out ourselves for special occasions,” Sharon Spinney said.

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