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I’m from a rural area of East Texas and the phrase “How much do you like,” and variations thereof, are commonly used to ask how much time or prerequisites a person has left in a given task.
“I’m ready to be finished with school.”
“Really? How much more do you like?”
I’ve talked to people from Texas, Mississippi, and Georgia who are familiar with this phrasing, but it seems to be fairly uncommon/archaic.
Does anyone else have experience with this phrase? Or insights into its prevalence/origin?
I might could be somebody’s older relative from Texas and I say “like.” I picked it up as a child from my parents and grandparents, so it goes back a long time. I will allow that I might have understood it wrong and I never have questioned it or tried to look it up, but it is still in fairly common use in my circles.
It was definitely like. Around 1971 I worked in a print shop in OKC where this question was common. “How many do you like?” “About 200, then I can run your Bell Jewelry cards.”
These were mainly southeastern Okies, from places like McAlester or Okmulgee. The usage was not nearly as common around Enid or Ponca.
The hypercorrection was complete and reciprocal, because these folks used lack to mean like. “I really lack Marlboras, but I’ll smoke a Kool if I like anytheng better.”
Another thing I noticed about these SE Okies: pin and pen were both pronounced pin, but they didn’t feel the two words as homonyms. Both were varieties of the same noun meaning long pointed thing, and were always distinguished as “strite pin” and “eenk pin”.
Ron Draney said
Since most of the older relatives I grew up around were from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas or Missouri, I heard this expression throughout my first decade. But I always thought it was “how much do you lack“?
In translating Texan to Murrican, I thought a Texan would say “I lack my coffee black.”
Not saying this is not an “Okie” thing..but my family has been in the S.W. Georgia are for a few good centuries and I have always been perplexed by my father’s usage of “How much do you like?” with regards to any task, even more so, my homework – Which always had a very predictable and dickish response of “I don’t like any of it”.
My Grandmother always called her cookies “tea cakes” – very British. She knew nothing of tea-time, nor what a biscuit was/shortbread etc. For her, they were cookies, but for some unexplainable reason, she referred to them as “tea cakes” – Old school British.
Secondly, I’ve been overseas going on two decades and this is a phonetical thing. “Like” spoken by with Scottish accent (and Irish for that matter) is essentially “lack” – so the they contextual application that most have referred to is logical. The meaning is just that, it’s only some centuries old oddity of pronunciation.
It is indeed “lack” only our heritage, for some strange reason, has held on to the pronunciation “lyke”/”like”.
As several posters confirm above, using “like” in this way is not really an “irregular use of like” (as in “I like you”)– rather, it is a regional pronunciation of the verb “to lack”, as in a quantity of time, things or materials left until a thing or a process is considered completed.
My grandparents used it a lot, and they were born in the early ‘teens in farming communities in north-central Texas.
Funny thing, I don’t recall them saying “like” (meaning “lack”) as a noun, as in “There was a lack of rain in those parts.” Used as a noun, I think they probably pronounced it in the more standard way (as rhyming with “Jack”). Maybe the “like” pronunciation was shifted only for the verb usage.
“Pop let us leave off work a little early that day, even though we liked (meaning lacked) a few rows.”
“I sorely wanted to buy that guitar, but I liked (meaning lacked) about ten dollars”
Actually, most of the time I heard “like” (to mean “to lack”) was in the phrase “liked to never…”, meaning something may have finally been finished or completed, but only after a great deal of time and effort. In this way, “..liked to never..” was a sort of superlative. I always figured the meaning was sort of like “almost never”, as in “lacking not much until never.”
“It was embarrassing thing, but she thought it was pretty funny. From then on, she’d ask me about it every single time she saw me. She liked to never stop laughing about that.”
“When Mom would take us kids to the Primitive Baptist tent revival meetings in the summers, we thought the preaching and carrying on would like to never end.”
“When Pop told us to start picking those peas, we thought we’d like to never finish that whole patch.”
Dictionaries just show us the range of possible usages and meanings, etc. for particular words across the English speaking world. I guess you’d have to know more about usage in particular region’s to know which usages, meanings, etc. can be considered colloquial, regional, etc. I think what is colloquial can also be generational. Everyday language I recall my older relatives using.. Is sort of lost to history
I’m also very skeptical of on-line dictionaries– they don’t appear to be edited or maintained at all. Makes me wonder who is adding the words, definitions, etc., or it is being outsourced to other countries. My ESL students naturally prefer to use the dictionary or translation apps on their phones, but I encourage them to use real, professionally-edited bound dictionaries. They find words in online Merriam-Webster like argufy and argufication and use them in essays.. I tell them “don’t use that – because people will get confused” then they say “it’s in the Merriam dictionary!” Argh…
I understand what you say about dictionaries but almost any current dictionary can give a feel for what and how a word is currently being used.
I quoted it, however, to back up my experience which is that everybody around here (Ft. Worth, TX) uses that term regularly. It is not generational in any way. You might be able to say it is regional since I don’t actively try to listen for it when I am away.
By the way, in the interest of my education, will you give me the name of a dictionary that you are not skeptical of which omits the definition likely from the word liable.
Regarding words and phrases that can be alternate synonyms with similar meanings, such as likely/liable, soon/directly, to court/to date, etc., it’s obvious that most people will probably understand both synonyms, that they will have both of them in their dictionaries, and that they might even use both of them in different contexts and situations. Even so, it is interesting to some people that there exist so-called isogloss patterns of usage and pronunciation, such that with sufficient research, these differences can even be mapped out across the U.S. There’s also research that shows that some usage patterns correlate to age.
Some of the articles I recall reading mapped out where people mostly use “sack” and where people mostly use “bag” when asked something like, “What do you call the paper container for carrying home groceries from the store?” True, it might seem like a very insignificant thing where people mostly say “bag” or “sack”, but I have often been surprised about what kinds of things academics will decide is worth researching.
FYI: If you haven’t seen the BYU (Brigham Young University, corpus.byu.edu) on-line corpus databases, it’s a great resource for usage statistics.
Do dictionaries indicate which usages are current? Besides indicating that some words are archaic (like “doth”, etc.), I’m not sure if typical dictionaries show which words might seem marked as old-fashioned, or which are current. I do know that it is a challenge for adult English language learners to know which of the words in their dictionary or thesaurus will sound “normal.” I’ve had the same challenge as I learned my second and third languages.
I don’t post in the discussion forum in order to try to win an argument; like most posters in the forum, I am simply making observations and sometime speculations.
I’m not trying to “win” an argument either. I began arguing because it seemed that there were comments to imply that using liable instead of likely was much less common than my own observations indicated. Most of my education in the linguistic field is from observation, and since I have always lived in Texas and have not traveled extensively you can see the limits of my education. Another way I educate myself is through discussions like this, so I apologize if I have seemed adversarial.
All I was trying to say is that my observations tell me that using the word liable as a synonym for likely is not generational or dated, at least where I live. If you say that in other areas it is, I can not disagree, having no experience. But now I have a bit more education.