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How to be . Cool. A Study in the Dialogue of Cool -ness. By Karen Andrews, Angela Stepancic, and Charlotte Stice. Contents. Helping Students Sound Cool Quotatives: Go and Like Breaking All the Rules Idioms Cool Conversations Pop Culture and Slang.

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Slide1 l.jpg

How to be


A Study in the Dialogue of Cool-ness

By Karen Andrews, Angela Stepancic, and Charlotte Stice

Contents l.jpg

  • Helping Students Sound Cool

    • Quotatives: Go and Like

  • Breaking All the Rules

    • Idioms

  • Cool Conversations

    • Pop Culture and Slang

How to help students sound cool l.jpg
How to Help Students Sound Cool

So I go, ‘what’s up” and

he goes, ‘I’m just chillin’,

And I’m like, ‘do I hear a

girl’s voice?’, and I

go, “who’s there? And he’s

like, ‘no it’s just me’ …

I’d be like, ‘Dude,

you need to hit

the road’ ‘cause

there’s definitely

something fishy

going on.

The new quotatives go and like l.jpg
The New Quotatives: Go and Like

  • People (especially young people) are more apt to say “and I was like ‘what is this?’ instead of “and I wanted to know what it was” than they were 20 years ago.

  • Linguists have studied this phenomenon and have classified go and be like as the “new quotatives” or “body quotatives”

  • This study falls under the area of discourse analysis, which is the study of language used by members of a speech community.

  • It identifies linguistics features that characterize different genres as well as social and cultural factors that aid in our understanding of different types of text and speech.

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Like as a quotative

Example: “Maya’s like, ‘Kim come over here and be with…’”

Here, like acts as a “focus quotative” with introduces a particularly salient piece of information packaged in the form of reported speech.

Is like in this context just the discourse marker and be the quotative verb? For example, in newspaper editors put brackets around like, “And I was, like, ‘Oh my God!” Or should the phrase be like be seen as the stem of a new, compound quotative verb?

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Other uses of like

  • As a hedging/approximative quotative when form and content can only be rendered approximately because of the idiosyncrasy of expression due to accent, style or prosody of the original speaker

    Ex.: “I tried to get her to say hello and she’d be like ‘(makes choking noise) no puedo, no puedo’

  • As a reported thought, as when speakers express their attitude or opinion packaged in the form of reported speech to make it more vivid.

    Plastic Bags

  • “The only problem with those is sometimes they get holes in the bottom.”

  • “Yeah, it’s like ‘whoops, there goes my chips’”.

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Go as a quotative

Go is often used in “realis quotes”-- real reproductions of past occurring speech acts. When reproduced, they are embedded in a defined and plausible communicative situation. These quotes can be classified as real speech

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Consider the following conversation...

“Being mistaken for a woman”

A: The other day I went into a bar and this guy asked me to dance…

B: (Laughs)

A: and all he saw was my hair, and he goes, ‘do you wanna dance’? and I turn around and go, ‘what’?

B: (Laughs)

A: And he goes, ‘do you wanna dance’?

and I go, ‘no no’.

He goes, ‘oh oh I’m sorry’.

I go, ‘yeah you better be’.

B: That’s hilarious.

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Results of a study on the uses of go and like

  • Go is used the most often in realis situations

  • Like is used more often in hypothetical situations

  • Go is used more often in quotes with sound effects

  • Like is used in a performance in which the speaker acts “in character” rather than the situated self. The practice of reenacting a character’s behavior is a “body quotation”, so “I’m like, I was like, he was like” can be classified as “body quotatives

  • Be like can mark reported speech as well as reported thought or emotion, whereas say and go can introduce only quoted speech. Be like marks moments when the speaker is changing footing, lending the body to a character who through its sounds and motions comes alive. This is called “mimetic performance”.

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Rewrite the following conversation in “cool English”

A: I was talking to my friend the other day and he told me that John and Mary have gotten engaged!

B: I’m really surprised to hear that because the last time I talked to John, he seemed very hesitant about getting married. (Can you think of some idioms or expressions that would fit here?)

A: No, I’m sure it’s true because my friend heard it from John himself.

B: Well, I guess it’s true if he heard it from John himself. (Another idiom would fit here!) But the last time I talked to John he was definitely talking about waiting for another year or so.

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  • Break rules on combining semantic properties

    • Don’t adhere to the Principle of Compositionality

    • Ex. Eat your heart out or Put your foot in your mouth

  • Most idioms originate as metaphorical expressions

    • Metaphor: A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another (comparison)

    • Idiom: no comparison being made – meaning can’t be derived from the elements in phrase alone

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Why Teach Idioms?

  • Important to pragmatics

    • The interpretation of linguistic meaning of a word depends on context



  • Help them sound cool

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Tips on Teaching

  • Explain that it may be something you need to memorize; but,

  • Make it fun with games/pictures



  • Give the history of where the phrase came from

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Idioms Activity

  • Find your partner

  • In a pair, write down an idiom or two that you have heard of and has not been mentioned in class


  • With partner, pick an idiom (on next screen) and draw a picture to demonstrate the idiom

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Suggested Idioms to Sound Cool

  • Take it easy

  • Give someone a hand

  • Kidding around

  • Beat it!

  • Break a Leg

  • Get Goosebumps

  • Have one’s eyes on

Cool conversations l.jpg


Pop Culture

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Pop Culture’s Effect on Students

  • Making friends

    • Often, pop culture is the topic of daily conversation and if a students is unaware, he may be left lonely

  • In-school references

    • Some schools have contests based on current television series

    • i.e. American Idol = Fairfax Idol

      Does anyone know any others?

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Pop Culture’s Effect on Students

  • A sense of social history

    • Many jokes or comments are based on old elements of pop culture

    • Also, old television shows and clothing styles gauge our social progress

Imagine an esl student trying to understand this cartoon l.jpg
Imagine an ESL student trying to understand this cartoon:

What reference points are necessary to understand the humor?

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When Pop Culture meets Academia

  • What happens when street-slang becomes part of the mainstream?

  • Do we incorporate it into the classroom?


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Slang in the dictionary

  • When the Merriam-Webster Dictionary adds over 10,000 words to the lexicon, it is important that ESL teachers take heed.

  • This mainstream slang is important to the assimilation of students into the culture as well as into their socialcircles.

Imagine esl students attempting to understand this sentence l.jpg
Imagine ESL students attempting to understand this sentence:

“Well, if he didn’t have that Gonzo nose, maybe he could hook-up with girls that looked better than Rosie O’Donnell on crack.”

These are only a few words that have been added to the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.

Dictionary slang l.jpg
Dictionary Slang

anoraky: Socially inept and studious or obsessive person with unfashionable and largely solitary interests

bad ass: A tough, aggressive, or uncooperative person; a trouble-maker

bling-bling: the wearing of expensive designer clothing and flashy jewelry

booty: buttocks

bootylicious: Thanks to Destiny's Child, this is a description of exceptional booty. The song lyrics that changed the dictionary: "Cause my body too bootylicious for ya babe“

bunny-boiler: a vindictive woman (see Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction")

bunny-hugger: conservationist or animal lover

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Dictionary Slang

chick-flick: movies that appeal to women

chick-lit: books that appeal to women

gearhead: car enthusiast

hottie: a physically attractive person

noogie: the prank of rubbing your knuckles on somebody's head

treehugger: an environmentalist

roadrage: a motorist's uncontrolled anger that is usually generated by an irritating act of another motorist and is expressed by aggressive or violent behavior

spinmeister: An expert at presenting information or events to the media in a favorable light.

Let s have some fun explain the humor in this cartoon l.jpg
Let’s have some fun!Explain the humor in this cartoon:

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Conversation may be the most important aspect of an ESL student’s socialization.

We must make sure that our students aren’t left in the dust as the other students plow ahead.

No one wants the cool kids to be like, “Those ESL kids are so wack!”

References l.jpg

  • archive/index.php/t-1577.html


  • cartoons/memories.png




  • Buchstaller, Isabelle. (2002). He goes and I’m like: The new Quotatives re-visited.

  • Streeck, Jürgen.(2002). Grammars, Words and Embodies Meanings: On the Uses and Evolution of So and Like.