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“Like” - A Ubiquitous Word

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It’s like everywhere

Sadly, the verb tobelike and other variations of the like word do more than introduce quotations. They pervade young people’s speech. They threaten the language—and therefore thought itself. Tobelike and like often require the “speaker” to resort to wild gesticulations of hand and arm, accompanied by guttural grunts and groans.

Thus we might hear two young “professionals” share the hardships of the day:

A “Conversation”

He: “I’mlike up to here.” (Hand and forearm, parallel to the ground, rise to level of eyebrow.)

She: “Like yeah.” (Heel of hand, with fingers curled to back of head, strikes center of forehead.)

He: “Like yesterday waslike, ‘Ugh!’” (The theme begins to develop.)

She: “I’mlike, oh well, you know.” (Gentle but rhythmic nods of total understanding.)

He: “So you’llbelike, with it.” (Presumably a question denoting sympathy.)

She: “I’mlike . . . you know. What EVer.” (Mutual nods of assent to newly shared precepts.)

The “Like” Word Can Affect Your Writing

Perhaps I exaggerate. But I do so to make a point: If people talk this way, quite likely they will find writing even more difficult. One trend I have observed: People with the like habit overuse the verb to be in their writing. They simply cannot write a sentence without saying “something is this” or “something was that.”

When I teach courses in persuasive writing, as an exercise I urge the participants to write and speak at some length without using the verb to be and the like word at all. When they try it out, they often get tongue-tied or contract a case of writer’s block. But after a while, they catch on to the magic of speaking without thought-stopping expressions and of writing with verb-based prose.

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