Slang dictionary I mean [ahy meen] April 19, 2018 What does I mean mean? The expression I mean is variously used in conversation as a filler phrase; an emphasis marker; a way to reorganize, clarify, or qualify a thought; or to express disbelief or disapproval. Where does I mean come from? communify.org As a colloquial expression, I mean is recorded in the written record as early as 1892, used in dialogue to sound like speech. It stems from the literal and much older verb phrase, I mean (i.e., what I’m saying is …). The phrase has since proliferated in spoken language and in colloquial writing, especially as a filler in conversation when a person pauses (e.g., Well, you know, I mean, we’ve gotta get serious about saving for retirement.). It also spread as a way to reorganize one’s thoughts (e.g., Take a right, I mean, a left at the light.). Yet another application is clarification or qualification (e.g., You could really use a haircut. I mean, it doesn’t look bad, but …). This I mean often serves to backpedal or soften a harsh comment. In the 1990s, I mean became stereotyped as an air-headed verbal tic of so-called Valley Girls, especially in a dramatic expression of disbelief, exasperation, or judgment: “I mean, come on!”. A classic example comes from the 1995 teen comedy Clueless when the character Cher judges a male peer’s appearance: “I mean come on, it looks like they just fell out of bed and put on some baggy pants and take their greasy hair—ew—and cover it up with a backwards cap, and like, we’re expected to swoon? I don’t think so.” As Cher makes clear, I mean (come on) often implies disapproval, suggesting a person finds something ridiculous. This I mean has also been notably highlighted, and further associated with young, well-to-do white female speech patterns, in 2004’s Mean Girls and the TV show Gossip Girl (2007–12). The latter features the character Georgina memorably saying: “I’d say I’m great—I mean, look at my hair, my body, my clothes? But I’ve become a Bedford wife, and it’s really just the worst thing.” As another instance of the disproving I mean, if someone said they can make a billion dollars selling lemonade, you may think their idea is crazy and show your reaction by simply saying, “I mean, really?” This I mean expresses judgment without explicitly saying it. Examples of I mean Headed to my friend Jae's tea+sushi...I mean martini+sushi place in the CWE @jack, December, 2006 Irregardless! Ex-boyfriends are just off limits to friends. I mean, that's just like, the rules of feminism! Mean Girls (film), 2004 I mean if you're deporting people and then finding out if they're British or not after you've kicked them out of the country you might just be a racist @JimMFelton, April, 2018 SEE MORE EXAMPLES Who uses I mean? While I mean is often stereotyped as the speech of Valley Girls, it is widely used in speech and writing, from teenagers to doctors to novelists to news anchors. Since I mean is notably used in speech to clarify a misstatement, people online sometimes imitate such speech events in writing as humorous or sarcastic ways to make a point (e.g., That looks horrible. I mean, wow, OMG, that looks so great!). Overuse of I mean in speech is sometimes criticized for sounding unprepared or unintelligent. Overuse of I mean in writing is also sometimes criticized for sounding too casual or talky. Just Added Older Americans Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Saluting Face emoji Note This is not meant to be a formal definition of I mean like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of I mean that will help our users expand their word mastery.