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We Try It! Cutting Back on “Like”

Yes, I’m one of those people who have a tendency to overuse this versatile, mostly meaningless word. I’m 29, which means I was a kid in the ’80s and a teenager in the ’90s. Pretty much the perfect storm of “like” exposure.

While I don’t see it as a major linguistic problem for me, it’s something I’ve decided to work on.

The issue is that I use it in too many places, and I personally think it makes me sound younger and less articulate. When I’m trying to re-tell a conversation to someone, I can’t help but notice that I never actually use the word “said” or “asked” or anything: I always say “like.” (As in, “She was like, “˜No way!’ and I was like, “˜Totally.’”) This isn’t a terribly descriptive word to begin with, but it becomes even less meaningful when you consider the fact that I will sometimes deploy “I was like”¦” when I’m describing something I was thinking, rather than something I said.

Then there’s the seriousness/age issue. I’m less concerned now than I was in my early 20s about being seen as really young in the workplace and elsewhere; perhaps that’s because I’m not the youngest person around anymore. But I still feel that the things I’m saying or points I’m trying to make may sound more frivolous when they’re pushed out with a crowd of completely unnecessary “likes.”

And finally, there’s the fact that I fall back on it, hard, when I’m nervous. Maybe because I use it so often as a space-filler, when there’s awkward space to fill, I just shove a bunch of “likes” in there to buy myself some time. I’m particularly concerned that if I ever have a job with a public-speaking component, my sheer terror will be painfully obvious as I “like” my way through my presentation.

This post is effectively Part 1 of a series. I have a few radical ideas about how to eliminate or at least cut back on my use of “like,” such as – gasp! – just letting there be a pause while I’m talking and using the proper applicable word (such as “said”) instead of the L word. I think it’s going to be a lengthy (but hopefully interesting!) process, so I will keep everybody updated.

Has anyone else ever tried to eliminate a verbal tic, or perhaps the word “like” itself? If so, how did it go? I could use some words of wisdom here.

11 replies on “We Try It! Cutting Back on “Like””

Please, please help me with this. I am a 32-year-old woman, for goodness sake, I shouldn’t be using “like” still. I try to be conscious of it, but when I get going, they just tumble right on out. My biological father would get really mad when we would use it growing up, so I would use it all the time just to piss him off, but then it became a part of my vocabulary. Awesome, yet another thing I can blame on him!

Oh, Lord-I need to do this! I use “like” all the time, frequently without even realizing it. I know it makes me sound ditzy and unintelligent, so I have made efforts to cut out “like”-ing everything-but it’s a tough habit to break. “Like” is kind of the generic squishy white bread of the vocabulary world-it is utterly ubiquitous, goes with basically everything while adding no value to anything, and sticks to the roof of your mouth in an annoying fashion, refusing to go away even when you desperately want it to.

I try to stay conscious of how often I say “like,” and I know I insert it much less than I used to (as in, “Is that, like, a dog or a cat?”) (I don’t know, that’s the first thing that came to mind). I use “really” and “totally” too often – but I get enthusiastic about a lot of things, and they help me express just how really excited I am or totally awesome something was. ;)

My word is “right.” When I was in grad school, I was practicing for a group presentation and one of my teammates leaned over to another one and said, “wait for it, she’s going to say ‘right’ like 20 times.”
I had no idea, previously, right? So it just flowed out, right? I even stack them, as in an affirmative “right, right!”
I still do it, even now that I’m mostly self-aware. I know it makes me sound much less than I like to think I am, but I have no idea how to stop.

In high school I had a teacher who forbid “like” in his classroom (and there was a lot of discussion involved). I sounded so articulate for a while there…but after I was done with him I strayed back. I think there’s nothing inherently wrong with the word but yeah, people sound more articulate without it.

Literally is the new like. I have a dear friend who uses “OMG I was like literally” and it is very distracting to listen to her and takes away so much from the conversation.

I think it’s a positive thing to want to use certain fillers sparingly. Mine is “uh”. I listened to a voice mail I left a client last week and was embarrassed. I had no idea I sprinkled it throughout my speech so liberally.

I disagree that like is a meaningless word in causal conversation. If you were like something, you were thinking or saying something along a certain line, but not exactly. I actually think it’s pretty useful for casually getting a vague idea across, but that could just be me trying to excuse my like-Tourette’s.

Yes, I was raised in Southern California, why do you ask?

I didn’t grow up in SoCal but had/have many friends who did, and I went to college in California. Somewhere along the way I picked up “like” and use it with a great deal of frequency. You’re right that it isn’t meaningless, at least the way I use it, mostly, and the way I have heard others use it. It isn’t just filler; rather, it indicates imprecision in what you’re reporting.

So, if you are telling someone about a conversation you had, and you say, “I was like, ‘blah blah blah,'” you are indicating that you are not reporting a direct quote, and maybe even just stating a feeling or a sense of the situation you had, which isn’t clear if you say, “I said, ‘blah blah blah,'” or “I thought, ‘blah blah blah.'”

Man, I’ve been trying to cut this word out of my vocabulary for years. I haven’t had any success in social conversations, but I am better about it in academic/professional settings now.
This post is a reminder that I should try again; it really is something I use too much and in too many ways.

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