What's - Like - Happening With How Young People Talk?

My wife and I were in Barnes & Nobles today (yes I still visit a “real” bookstore when I can) and two young adults, perhaps 21 and 19, sat next to us. They began talking, actually talking a great deal, about personal stuff. To be candid, the stuff they were talking about was far too personal for public conversation, as in sex, bondage and drugs. But that’s aside from the point.

Do young people today not realize how many times they use the word “like?” I can honestly say that for the five minutes I focused on their rather loud conversation, not one solitary sentence went by without at least one “like.”

“It was… like… I went to the party and I… like… you know, like… Shawn was like there and it was not like I expected him. I’d never… like… have gone over to him. It’s… like, something about…like…”

This is not some made-up snippet of conversation. I was typing as quickly as I could and the paragraph above is verbatim what this one rising college senior actually said. Shawn, of course, was changed to protect the innocent. And, BTW, the word “like” usually precedes a quick stop, similar to a glottal stop in some languages.

My God, where have all the English teachers gone? Probably spending a long time passing; passing kids who need more conversational guidance. And how about parents, older friends, grandparents? Doesn’t anyone hear this insecure talk and have enough invested in their youth to actually correct them? How did this aberration of normal conversation actually start?

I hear this obsession with “like” in young people everywhere. Last week I was listening to a young professional adult on NPR and she used like at least 100 times in the interview. I was, like… stunned.

When I owned a publishing company, there was no way I would have hired someone with such obvious conversational flaws. Am I being too critical? Does this constant, almost obsessive, use of “like” bother any of you? I’d love to hear your opinion on this, like soon.

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