Consider the Views of the Experts.
By the mid-20c., however, [the use of like] as an incoherent and prevalent filler had reached the proportions of an epidemic, and it is now scorned by standard speakers as a vulgarism of the first order. New Fowler, p. 459.
Since the 1980s, be like is also a juvenile colloquialism equivalent to said in relating a conversation—e.g.: “And I was like, ‘Yes, I do.’ But he was like, ‘No you don’t. And so I was like, ‘If you’re just going to contradict me, then . . . .’“ In teenagers, this usage is all but ubiquitous. In adults, it shows arrested development. Garner Oxford, p. 212.
Work with Your Children
Urge your children to stay away from tobelike. Point out that saying “She was like tall” says nothing at all. And vigorously stress that grunts and groans and “like . . . ah . . . like this” and “like . . . um . . . ah . . . like that” peg the speaker as one who has some work to do before taking control of the language.
Check Out Your Own Habits
And if you write or talk for a living—as most of us do—try the exercise yourself. Listen to your own patterns of speech. I have a friend, my age, in his 60s. He has picked up the like habit from his teenager.
If you use tobelike and misuse the like word, just stop it. Then try writing a chapter like this one, and in 1,700 words see if you can use the verb to be—as I have—only once. (Can you find it? The be’s in the examples and quotations don’t count.)
Go ahead. Try it out.
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