“Are you trying to tell me something?” I asked my preteen grandson.
“Um, uh, yes.”
“Then don’t use that word. You know how I feel about it.”
And the conversation proceeded from there, unimpaired by repeated insertions of “like” into every sentence, as in, “I, um, like, wanted to go to like the soccer game but like I wasn’t like able to because like I had to stay home and like do my homework.”
I will tolerate repetitious misuses of “like” when I’m talking with a person with whom I have no interest in a relationship (e.g. a salesperson) but I will not tolerate even one such misuse with my grandchildren. Why? Because I care about my grandchildren. I want them to have every advantage in life, and one such advantage is the correct use of language. There is a simple reason why one does not hear physicians, lawyers, ministers, public speakers, politicians, CEOs, small business owners, corporate-level salespersons, talk-show hosts, or loan officers peppering their speech with the misuse of “like,” and the simple reason is that it sounds immature, ignorant and uneducated. It is also highly annoying to anyone who speaks correctly.
During a recent airplane ride from Phoenix to Charlotte, I was forced to listen while the young woman in back of me told her life story to her seatmate for the entire four-plus hours. She like did this and then she like did that and then like this happened and then like that happened and then her like parents did like such-and-so and her like friends did like such-and-such, all in a voice loud enough for half the plane to hear. By the way, she identified herself as a senior in college. Does she talk that way in class? This mannerism reflects a lack of proper thinking.
Every generation develops badges of membership. Mine did, and to fit in I acquired them. But all I had to do to appear normal to potential employers was cut my hair and stop wearing sunglasses indoors. Looking like Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider” was not a bad habit I had to struggle to break.
I know the repetitive misuse of “like,” starting in pre-adolescence, is going to be an extremely bad habit to break because it quickly develops into an involuntary vocal tic. Which is why I won’t tolerate it. Every loving parent, grandparent and teacher should be so intolerant.