Stop saying like! There have been many such space-filler words in the language, no doubt since the beginning. I’m quite certain early man moved from unintelligible grunting to rudimentary language to throwing in early equivalents of “um”, “uh”, “er”, and the infamous (and annoying) “you know.” We all do it, we can’t help it, it’s even necessary to keep the social flow of conversation moving along while our brains catch up. We just don’t need to do it incessantly.
Which leads me to the supremely aggravating and teeth-clenching LIKE.
This word has its proper usage of course, don’t they all? It’s difficult to pull of a good simile without the word like. It’s a comparison sort of word, a very useful sort of word. Like: similar or in a similar way; similar to someone or something. similar to someone or something else, or in a similar way to someone or something else. See? Good word, fine word, innocent word, horridly overused word!
Apparently, we once again blame the surfers, in this case Valley-Speak for pushing this one to the forefront. “Like I can’t believe how, like, awesome that last, like wave like was!”
I’ve said it, I say it, I’m usually aware of it and wince internally but I do say it. I just try (very hard!) to keep it to a minimum. Let’s face it folks, over-liberally sprinkling your speech with this particular overused word makes you sound, well, not smart. Worse, depending on the circumstance, it makes you sound unconfident, diffident, unsure of yourself. I don’t know about you but there are very few occasions in life when I wish to sound diffident and dorky.
Saying “like” like this is a habit. And like most habits, it’s not a good one. And like all habits, it can be broken. And like many habits, it SHOULD BE!
Teacher of grammar and English out there, I am proposing a challenge. Start noodging (gently at first then maybe not so gently) for your students to snip this word out of their vocabulary. And for some of you teachers of grammar, let’s admit it, out of your own as well.
Make a game of the simile angle so that they will be more cognizant of the proper usage of the word and have some fun with the language itself. Encourage fun, goofy, even outlandish similes’; The flock of penguins huddled together like a gathering of formally dressed gentlemen. Inundate your students with the proper usage of this handy little word and it may just get them using properly. Which would make the rest of us very happy.