I feel like sushi

A recent Rhymes With Orange:

Among the many uses of the verb feel is is the one OED2 glosses as:

to feel like (doing something): to have an inclination for

with the usage note “(? orig. U.S.; now common)” and the usage label “colloq. or vulgar” (I wouldn’t say that vulgar is appropriate now, even if it was in 1989, but colloquial is about right). In the cartoon, this sense competes with a sense in which the subject of the verb is the source of a touch perception (with the experiencer of this perception optionally expressed by a PP in to).

OED2’s gloss for the second sense:

Used (like taste, smell) in quasi-passive sense with complement: To be felt as having a specified quality; to produce a certain impression on the senses (esp. that of touch) or the sensibilities; to seem.

So: something feels rough, like sandpaper, as if it was sanded (to me).

The inclination sense is attested at least since the early 19th century:

1829    Virginia Lit. Museum 30 Dec. 458   Like..is also used, as follows, in the south: ‘I do not feel like eating’.

This example has a VP complement (denoting an activity) in PRP form, and OED2 has other examples with this syntax. But eventually examples crop up with an NP object rather than a VPprp complement — this one, for instance:

1970    W. J. Burley To kill Cat ii. 45   They had a drink together, then Helen said that she felt like bed.

These are interpreted with the NP understood as the object of an implicit verb (in PRP form) — in this case bed conveying ‘going to bed’. Similarly, in the cartoon, sushi conveys ‘having sushi (to eat), eating sushi’. Indeed, this use of feel like NP is very common in eating and drinking contexts: I feel like a bowl of soup used to order a bowl of soup or to suggest soup-making, Do you feel like a martini? used to ask if your drinking preference is for a martini or to offer a martini, and so on.

I very much doubt that the feel like NP argument structure for the inclination sense goes back only to 1970, but at the moment I have no evidence on the matter. Certainly it’s common enough, though still (I think) informal or colloquial in style.

One Response to “I feel like sushi”

  1. Antedating « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Jens Fiederer on Google+ today, a follow-up to my posting on feel like (here), with an antedating of feel like + NP (as in I feel like sushi ‘I feel like eating […]

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