Taylor Mali on “Totally like whatever, you know?”

"Speech Mastery Course!"

"Speech Mastery Course!"
Image credit: Healthy Wealthy and Wise

In case you hadn’t realized,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you’re talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you’re, like, saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)’s
and (you know what I’m saying?)’s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions?

Declarative sentences – so-called
because they used to, like, you know DECLARE things to be true, ok
as opposed to other things that are, like, totally, you know, not –
They’ve been infected by this tragically cool
and totally hip interrogative tone?
As if I’m saying, don’t think I’m a nerd just cuz I’ve like noticed this, ok;
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions?
I’m just like inviting you to join me on the bandwagon of my own uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down with the rest of the rain forest?
You know?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society just become so filled with these conflicting feelings of nyeaah…
That we’ve just gotten to the point where we’re the most agressively inarticulate generation to come along since . . .
you know, a long time ago!

So I implore you, I entreat you,
And I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You gotta speak with it, too.
Taylor Mali‘s poem “Totally like whatever, you know?”

Def Poetry Jam, Season 2

Taylor Mali Posted on behalf of on Saturday, January 23rd, 2010 under Quotations.


  1. I had never consciously considered that while making excuses for my beliefs and opinions, in a vain attempt to be non threatening to others, that I was eroding my very ability to communicate my beliefs, ideas and opinions.

    wake up call.

    thanks for posting this.

  2. In my younger days I acted like that, but really try not to do it anymore. Here is a quote from the movie Coach Carter that stuck with me. I am not one to remember much about a movie. I watch it, then it’s over. But I think this one is really good.

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. “

  3. @kini Well said 🙂

    @caretobe I love that quotation! If I remember right, there’s some confusion about who first spoke it, either Marianne Williamson or Nelson Mandela. I’ll see if I can track that down…

  4. Thanks Greg!

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