Trying to figure out latest phrase: 'I know, right?'

I hate it when a little research gets in the way of an original idea. Or at least I thought it was original until that blasted Google got in my way. And if you're a regular reader here, you know I don't like to burden myself with too much research or fact-checking. It can get in the way of a good idea.

If I were sitting right there with you and read that last paragraph aloud, your response may very well have been, "I know, right?"

Which brings me to the topic that's been bouncing around in my mind for the last few weeks. (Normally, thoughts in my mind for that long of time have long since died of loneliness.)

Anyway, the question is, what's up with "I know, right?" It's a phrase I've been hearing quite a bit lately, usually at work.

It's spoken after one person has made a statement and the next person, expressing their agreement, comes back with, "I know, right?" Note that the last word is spoken as a question, not an affirmation, although affirmation seems to be the ultimate feeling being communicated.

So I thought I would use this forum to blow the cover off of this brand new expression and seek out its origin. Was it a recently released movie that I missed, maybe a TV show not on my watch list or a song not played on the oldies station?

So that's where I gave in and figured a little research might be called for; thus the visit to the all-knowing Google. Seems it was from a TV show/movie/song that I missed, like about anywhere from two to 30 years ago depending on whom you listen to.

Just two years ago, it was the "Word of the Day" on a website called Urban Dictionary. I know, it's really three words, but I'm not bad mouthing a site that had one definition of the phrase that said, "A way to express the concept of 'yes' if you're not quite articulate enough to say that mighty imposing word."

The more I looked, the older the references to the phrase that I thought was brand new began to appear. Back in 2008, someone was so fed up with it they produced a You Tube video advocating that it be purged from all levels of speech.

Discussion boards were found with people falling over each other trying to identify early appearances of the phrase. It showed up in a Zits cartoon in 2011, the movie "Juno" in 2007, another movie — "Mean Girls" — in 2004.

Where have I been all these years? I know in the old days we used to say expressions like this would take years of use in other areas before it would reach Nebraska. But, come on, this is the Internet age. One of the Kardashians says something at noon and it's ingrained in our lexicon by midnight. So I'm sure it's been around, I just missed it.

If you were to believe some sources — and why wouldn't you, they're on the Internet — it dates back to when I was young. Could it be, back in the '70s when I was resisting the use of the word "groovy," the phrase "I know, right?" was being born? Could be.

There were some claiming that's when the phrase was starting to be used in — all together now — California. That's right, yet another phrase we can attribute to Valley Girls. You know them, the Los Angeles-based culture that gave us such pearls as "to the max," "gag me with a spoon," "totally" and "for sure."

Somewhere in there, according to some people who apparently cared to dig a lot deeper than I did, they also gave us, "I know, right?"

So apparently, it's here to stay. Or at least back for another run. I guess if the guy with the You Tube video couldn't get it stopped, what chance do I have. He even had more than 29,000 views of his video, and yet the phrase remains.

So, I'm sure you're telling me just to let it go, it's a harmless little phrase.

And to that I guess I say … nope, not going to say it.  

Russ Batenhorst

Don't expect to detect a common topic or theme in Russ Batenhorst's weekly column in the Hastings Tribune. Usually it's whatever slice-of-life observation pops into his head just in time to make the deadline for it to appear each Friday.

Copyright © 2015