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Chapter 13 - The “Like” Word

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“Like, I’mlike gonna learn how to like talk.”

If you have a “like” habit, the time has come: Break it. Many people cannot make it through a single sentence without scores of “I’m like” and “She was like” and “She’s all . . . .” For good measure, they throw in the like word as adjectives, adverbs, and indecipherable constructions.

An Overview of the like Word

Dear reader,

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And if you have the like habit, I’ve got some advice for you.

Break the Habit

In the late 1980s, the Drug Enforcement Administration dispatched a crack team of enforcers to a southern university. They struck pay dirt, finding drug paraphernalia in several fraternity houses. Editors of The Washington Post dispatched their crack team of reporters to gauge student reaction. In its story, the Post included one of those boxed quotations designed to attract attention to the article.

Unfortunately for the university’s public-relations department, the Post quoted a student “thinker” who summed up the reaction this way:

“We were like, ‘Whoa!’”

Millions of Post readers scratched their heads, wondering just exactly what the students thought of the DEA raid. Did they endorse it? Did they find it incredibly funny? Did they feel a sense of outrage? Relief? Fear? Shame?

We know very little, of course, only that students “were like, ‘Whoa.’” We can fill in the blanks. The expression means whatever we want.

Substitute for Thought

Like every generation before it (in the ’60s we used ya know a lot), the youth of today have devised their own expression as a substitute for thought—a new verb, tobelike, spelled just like that, spoken just like that, as a single word, often joined permanently to its subject.

We can conjugate this new verb: tobelike.

In the present tense, “I’mlike.” In the past tense, “Iwaslike.”

On the subway once, I heard a young “professional” say in the future tense, “I’llbelike.”

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