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Grammar Guy: As I walk through the Valley

By Curtis Honeycutt

It’s no secret people under a certain age (I’m going to put it as high as 50) throw around the word “like” as if they lived in mid-1980’s Beverly Hills. “Like” gets used as much as “the,” functioning as the filler word of many non-Californians’ daily lingo.

While we no longer say phrases like “gag me with a spoon,” we do say “totally” like, all the time. Although you won’t find many people uttering “talk to the hand,” the word “awesome” is so ubiquitous it might as well mean nothing. Whoever these well-to-do teenage girls were in the ‘80s and ‘90s, they left their mark on our American English lexicon.

As I approach the mall kiosk confessional of Valley girl transgressions, I have one I’d like to beg forgiveness for: “for sure,” but pronounced more like “fur shur.”

When I launched my book in May 2020 (possibly the worst time in the history of the world to publish a book), I appeared as a guest on a local Indianapolis show to promote my book. After the interview, I was pleased; however, I received an email from a fellow word nerd chiding me for my pervasive use and pronunciation of “for sure.”

Hear me out: it’s hard to avoid certain phraseologies and expressions as they creep into everyday use. For example, I point you to the reunion episode of season 12 of the Lifetime channel reality series “Married at First Sight.” While the show’s critical acclaim is on par with the tawdry summer fan-favorite “Bachelor in Paradise,” I got sucked into the concept of people getting hitched as total strangers.

When the host of the reunion show interviewed each cast member (or are they contestants?), many of the fellow cast members agreed with each other with a confident “For sure” or the even more confident, “Oh for sure.” Can I chalk up watching this show to a study of contemporary sociology? For sure. After watching the past three seasons of the show, do I follow a handful of cast members on Instagram? Oh, for sure.

Certain words and phrases rub off on us the same way a song gets stuck in your head. Sometimes all it takes is someone humming a few notes, and a song gets lodged in every nook and cranny of our gray matter. We absorb what we watch, read, listen to and generally let into our lives. So, as I talk through the valley of the shadow of slang, I will fear no evil. If I do find myself fearing evil, I’ll just, like, totally take a chill pill.

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