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Individual sessions will focus on ear training; you will learn to hear the difference between your pronunciation and that of Standard American English (neutral, mainstream, unaccented).

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The Like Epidemic | Using Word “Like” Excessively

“Like” is a good word, a useful word.  I like it. It has been in use since the Middle Ages. However, it has never been as ubiquitous in casual conversation as it is now.  I must admit that excessive and unnecessary use of like has been a pet peeve of mine for years.  It is commonly used as a filler, and it delays expressing an actual idea.

Use of  Word “like” Now Extends to All Ages and Genders

At one time, like seemed to have special proprietary usage by teens.  However, use of like now extends to all ages and genders. Please allow me to demonstrate… “So, I was like at this film screening, like the other night, and like the moderator used the word “like” like so many times that it was like so distracting.”  This is, in fact, what happened.  On a recent evening, while attending a film screening, the very knowledgeable and insightful moderator, was afflicted with a case of the likes.  It was at that point that I realized that the idiomatic use of the word “like” had reached epidemic proportions.

A number of audience members and I were so distracted by his excessive use of like that we were unable to focus on his insights and analysis of the movie.  He came across sounding very immature, uneducated, and unsure of himself.  To spice things up a bit, he tossed “you know” and “really” into the mixture.  These alternative fillers did not help at all.

Use of Word “Like”Has Acceptable Uses

Like has many idiomatic uses that are acceptable and used to share information in a conversation.  A sampling of a few of these are as follows: like a fish out of water, like a ton of bricks, like looking for a needle in a haystack, like pulling teeth, and like two peas in a pod. We can say, “Bob stood there in his rented tuxedo, like a fish out of water” or “Trying to find a white glove in a snowstorm is like looking for a needle in a haystack”. In these cases, like is used to help express a clear idea.

“Like” as a Verb

As a verb, like expresses pleasure (I like you), as a preposition, like indicates resembling closely or similar to (It’s not like you), as an adverb like can mean “as if” (He ran like crazy), as a noun like means similar to (“button, snaps and the like”), as an adjective like can mean “such as” (saved things like old newspapers) and finally, like can signify “in the same way” (To play the piano like she does takes practice). At the risk of becoming too pedantic, I will move on, but since the correct use of like seems to have been replaced by its present overuse in pop culture, it seemed necessary to have this momentary flashback to English 101.

 Using Like as a Filler

If you too have been infected with the like epidemic, do not despair; there is hope.  Before we can change a habit, whether it is a speech sound or another verbal speech pattern, we have to be able to hear it.  Record yourself telling a story as if you are talking to a friend or while you are on the phone with a friend, record your half of the conversation.  Go back, and listen to the recording and count all of the times you used the word “like”.  Now, while listening to the recording, say the same sentences again, without using the word “like”.  Stop the recording every two to three sentences and reproduce the same part of the story without the use of like.  After you have completed this process, try telling the same story again, from beginning to end, without relying on the filler like.  Record your narration so that you will be able to hear the new, improved, like-less version.  You have begun to train your ear to scan for the word like and now, more aware of it, you can begin to curtail using it in everyday, conversational speech.

Repeat this exercise on a daily basis until you have succeeded in restoring use of the word “like” to its traditional and grammatically correct role.

I would really like that!

Using a speech pathologist is a great way to correct a “like” problem.




1 comment to The Like Epidemic | Using Word “Like” Excessively

  • Ron Mead

    Thank you Susan! Great article!

    I teach college grammar and published “A Concise Book for Those who Hate Grammar.” You can see it on Amazon.

    I will share your article with my students.



    Ron D. Mead

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