One of my ongoing battles with the Spouse is my occasional use of the word “like.”  Not as in, “I like coffee” or “Love is like a song,” but in the quasi-Valley girl sense. Like, you know?  He gets so riled up and has taken to calling me out on it.  I’m sure you can guess how I feel about that!

To be honest, I try not to use the word in that way, and I avoid it entirely in professional settings.  It’s annoying, after all. However, I don’t see the problem with using it occasionally in casual speech, so long as it doesn’t detract from one’s overall understanding of your words.

On campus, I often hear students on cell phones having the following conversation:

So, I was like, you know, what do you, like, want?  I mean, it’s so frustrating, that you, like, talk to me, like, every day, y’know, but then, like, pretend…you, uh…like…

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I could abandon my pursuit of a tenure track job.  What troubles me is fully grown people (25+) with decent levels of education who overuse “like.”  It’s somewhat of a generational thing, but so many people haven’t outgrown it, and that bothers me.  As Taylor Mali said in his poem, “It is not enough to question authority, you must also speak with it.”  Why do we have so much trouble actually saying what we want to say?

On a similar note, I recently read a post that speaks to this phenomenon, but also addresses another problem that so many students have: stunted vocabulary.  No doubt the vocal fillers are a symptom of this, but it is troubling that so many people restrict their word use out of fear of appearing to be too smart.   Maybe this is all much ado about nothing, but I do hope that there is a shift in our society that drives people to speak more authoritatively.