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.
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.
Introducing Quotations with the Like Word
Usually, people use tobelike to introduce quoted sources. In that form, it doesn’t harm the language too much or totally prevent thought from taking place. We can hear entire conversations, peppered with the verb tobelike and gobs of likes thrown in for good measure, and come away at least marginally informed.
And I waslike, “In most cases, yes.”
And she waslike, “Well, when do these rights not apply?”
A Ubiquitous Word
Sadly, the verb tobelike and other variations of the like word do more than introduce quotations. They pervade many 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.
He: “So you’llbelike, with it.” (Presumably a question denoting sympathy.)
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 on-site courses in effective 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.
Parents, Take Note
Parents might try the exercise out on their children. Bribe them. Put a $10 bill on the breakfast table and challenge them to make it through a second helping of waffles without using the tobelike verb and without misusing the like word. Up it to $100. Your money’s safe.
We hope you have enjoyed, and profited from, this discussion on the awful like word. If you have, we hope you’ll tell your friends about Grammar.com. You may download an expanded discussion of the like word in our Downloads section. Download it and send it to your friends. Download it and make your children read it. Download it and heed it.