I caught myself using this saying the other day. In Appalachia, “like to have” means almost or nearly or came close to. So “I like to have died!” means I almost died, came close to dying, nearly died.
It can be a true statement or an exaggeration. In my case, it was something of an exaggeration when I was telling a friend about my recent hospitalization. Although I had been very ill and could have died if I had not received medical treatment, I was rushed to the hospital and did not actually come close to death.
Most often, as I have heard it, the statement is used to exaggerate a response, such as: “When I saw that huge spider on the porch, I like to have died!” or “I like to have died when that cougar came down the hill and went behind the shed!”
“Like to have” also can be used in this way: “When he found out his daughter was dating that no-count boy, he liked to have had a conniption fit!”
Do you say, “I like to have died,” or have you ever heard it used?