NORMAN — Are you trying to tell me something?” I asked my pre-teen 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, albeit I file the conversation under “Try Not to Patronize These Places of Business”), 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 in speech.
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 such peppering 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 directly in back of me told her life story to her seatmate for the entire four-plus hours.
Said autobiography featured the word “like” misused at least 4,356 times. 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 and like, like, like, like, like, like, like another 4,341 times, all in a voice loud enough for half the plane to hear.