By Amy D. Jackson
Whenever I hear the word like, I immediately get suspicious. Usually the guilty party will keep parroting like over and over again unawares of their crime. So, imagine my surprise and joy when I happened upon Christopher Hitchens’ article “The other “L” Word.” It was a moment of euphoria not because I now had a story for the week (Thanks Mr. Hitchens) but because finally someone was saying what we all say behind closed doors: even the like users. Why do people like say it all the time? According to Hitchens, the origins lay amidst the tangled remnants of the swinging 60s showing up in episodes of Scooby Doo (according to Wikipedia). Of course, I never knew this. I decided to find out where the term came from.
Like has been forever associated with “Valley Girl” types circa 1980s. However, to get a professional opinion I asked Dr. Regina Oost, Wesleyan’s English department chair, what she thought about the like culture. Immediately, she mentions the valley girl syndrome, describing it as a parody of the valley girl. How did this syndrome transcend time and form generation like? Why, through pop culture! Films like Mean Girls, Bring It On and of course, Clueless are at the helm of celebrating the great likeness.
However, Dr. Oost feels that like has lost its valley girl connotations and just become mainstream. She expresses that like has negative roots since people who use it are seen as bubble heads because of the valley girl.
However, she does defend like. She says “People have always used speech fillers. We insert little words to give us time to think and hold our place in the conversation.” She finds it interesting that “the word like doesn’t appear in people’s writing. It’s a speech phenomenon. It’s a verbal thing, not a written thing.”
Dr. Oost also admits that saying like every three words does drive her loco. And yes the addiction to like can be broken. Dr. Oost does say that people can train themselves not to use filler words mid-thought. Of course, this takes practice and time. Dr. Oost sums up the like matter very truthfully and poetically, “If it wasn’t like it would have been something else. Personally, I try to only use the word like when comparing things but I am only human. Like is very infectious.
I like, you like, we all like!
If you want to view like in its natural habitat, Click here.