It’s annoying, like

Many years ago when I was in my 20s I suddenly realised that I had acquired a verbal tick that led to me add the word ‘actually’ somewhere in almost every sentence. ‘Actually, I had lunch at 1 o’clock today.’ ‘These are my views, actually.’ Once I had become aware of it I made every effort to suppress this annoying habit, and actually, I believe I succeeded. But I also became more aware of everyone else’s habits. A friend of mind who added ‘at the end of the day’ to every statement that was supposed to sound a little more profound; another who could not get through a sentence without saying ‘if you like’; another whose every sentence had to begin or end with ‘basically’; that sort of thing.

Back then, if you lived in Ireland you would constantly hear people sprinkling the word ‘like’ all over their sentences, in a completely meaningless way. I don’t know whether it was always so, but I have started to notice that young people in particular are doing this all over the English speaking world now. Recently I was in the presence of a multinational group of students, and they were all at it. No, they were all at it, like. It was, like, an annoying part of everything they said, like.

Does it matter? Probably not. Of course I didn’t say anything to them. I just wonder whether there is some connection between this and lower levels of literary awareness, or a trend towards a less rich language. It’s not that I don’t like slang, just that this particular habit makes the speaker seem strangely inarticulate.

Maybe, at the end of the day, I’m just too much of an annoying pedant. I mean, like.

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10 Comments on “It’s annoying, like”

  1. Al Says:

    Sounds like old age creeping in! Like…

  2. Scott Knitter Says:

    “Like” is used every other word by many young people I hear on public transport. Particularly weird is when “I’m like” is used instead of “I said”: “And I’m like, Omigod, and he’s like, What? and I’m like, You’re not gonna, like, wear that, are you? and he’s like, Are you like my mom or something?”…

  3. Scott Knitter Says:

    The thing that’s bothering me most, though, at least here in the USA, is the habit of beginning every utterance with “So…” Worst is when a question is asked: “John Doe, tell us about the project you’ve begun.” And John says, “So, my colleagues and I…” I know I shouldn’t be bothered by this, but it always sounds to me as though the answerer is reframing the conversation and doesn’t want to answer in the terms set by the question. Personal problem of mine, I know!

    We have “at the end of the day” over here as well, and actually, I don’t mind your “actually” tic that you’ve described, Ferdinand. Not that I’ve heard it. I have a feeling you make it work somehow!

    Then there’s always the British Well-Basically Club.

  4. Jeff Says:

    My sister, admitted today to my state’s extremely competitive flagship university, ended our conversation with “whatevs;” apparently a contraction of the valley-girl word “whatever” and the letter “s.” I think–and hope– your post points up the skills of talented young people to code switch between social media slang and academic and professional discourses.

    • anna notaro Says:

      *I think–and hope– your post points up the skills of talented young people to code switch between social media slang and academic and professional discourses.* Yes, Jeff that is my hope as well, the capacity to switch is crucial, having just been through assessment though I’m not so sure it is often case, for a more indulgent view on the use of ‘like’ see this short piece http://people.ischool.berkeley.edu/~nunberg/like.html

  5. Vincent Says:

    Could it not be a musical key type of thing. Where the length and content is not conveying the entire intended meaning. Seen as we don’t issue our partners in conversation with a full timing and rhythm notation is it not a useful convention to input a few that are generally understood.
    As to your use of ‘actually’ and others use of such supposedly redundant words. I expect you’ll find that you used them with people you didn’t know very well and where/when you were within a grouping where you and they were at a level then such would vanish.
    Of course there is another explanation, you might have been in the company of an excess of U.C.Cers.😀

  6. Kate Says:

    ‘Like’ in that context is just a filler word like ‘um’ ‘er’ or ‘ah’ used to cover brief gaps in conversation to indicate that you’re still queuing up your next work and you are not ceding the floor to other speakers.

    Though the uniformity of the switch to the word ‘like’ for filling this function is interesting it’s nothing to worry, or get annoyed about.

  7. Cerena Says:

    Brilliant. I notice I say, “honestly” a lot. Like, what is wrong with me? Honestly…

  8. kevin denny Says:

    Lest we forget, young folk are not the only offenders and arguably they have more excuse. “Grown-ups” of a certain ilk fill their conversation with endless verbiage such as “going forward” “do a 360” “bottom line” and all those other tedious management clichés. And they get paid for it too.

  9. Fiona Says:

    Indeed!


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