Let's, Like, Talk About, Like, Using the Word 'Like'

Let's, Like, Talk About, Like, Using the Word 'Like'

Whether you like it or not, "like" is here to stay.
61
views

“Research has shown that young women are the movers and shakers when it comes to language, the innovators,” says sociolinguist Vera Regan.

And they, like, so totally are.

Beginning in the Californian subculture of the Valley Girl and transcending generations of different ethnicities, ages, and genders, “like” has become one of the English language’s most iconic terms.

Don’t even kid yourself. You know it’s true. You probably said “like” at least five times today.

And to think it all started with the apparently “ditzy and shallow” teenage girls of the 80s. Rather than mocking the “innovators of language”, as Regan put it, take a moment to understand how “like” went from a specifically defined adjective to a tri-decade encompassing motif of a generalized interjection that drips with history, culture, and infamy.

So how did Val-Gals hypothetically and linguistically redefine the speech patterns of an entire global community?

The use of “like”, popularized by the San Fernando sociolect, appears in the modern mainstream media as an action to ridicule. For the past thirty years, the “quotative like” has been a commodity amongst casual conversations, and thus has been mocked for portraying speakers as unintelligent, rich, and spoiled.

“You might say that non-standard like is all over the place. That it’s got no rules, it’s lazy, it’s chaotic, it’s disorderly, however, in fact, there are rules,” Regan recounts from her Ted Talk.

“Like” in its common use today is as a quotative, a type of interjection used to inform the audience the speaker is about to say a quotation. As a quotative, the word has three major uses in conversation: to introduce a not “word for word” quotation (e.g.: “She was like, ‘Stop that!’”), to paraphrase an unspoken idea (e.g.: “And I’m thinking like, ‘who do you think you are?’”), and to prepare the audience to view the speaker’s hand gestures, facial expressions, and reenactments through physical movements.

Like” is also well known for being a classic interjection, a word abruptly exclaimed or remarked in sentences. In this form, it can help give the speaker a moment to regather their thoughts or redirect topics. (e.g.: “Like…Oh! On the topic of…”)

With many various grammatical rules and specifications on how to use the word “like”, no wonder people think of unintelligence when they hear its use. Do note the sarcasm.

Now you might be thinking, “Lauren, how did the use of “like” in this manner initially begin and why has it remained so prevalent for almost forty years?” Well, I’ll tell you, very specific and poignant question-asker. See, a person’s speech is based on three factors: their location, their identity, and their plans.

“Like” initially exploded on to the linguistic scene back in 1982 California with Moon Zappa’s hit single “Valley Girl”. The song is of a Valley Girl persona reciting Californian teen sayings of the time in the now stereotypical yet iconic voice. After the song made it to the Top 100s, “Valspeak” hit an all-time high.

Alongside the song’s success, the idolization of the Californian lifestyle caused for massive popularity, crossing the country and across genders. Even boys and young men were now using it because of its transcending from the female-only territory and into the budding linguistic trend of surfer and skater slang.

The sociolect had become universal amongst teens of the 80s and soon to be adults of the 90s and 2000s. These now adults then spread the speech pattern to their children, passing the once decade-specific Valspeak to a whole other generation.

By the time these children had become teens in their own right, the 1995 film Clueless was released starring a myriad of characters reembodying the Valley Girl way to a new decade of speakers. The film became a teen classic reigniting the speech pattern’s popularity of using the stereotypical Valley voice, uptalk, and “like” itself.

The usage was not so generalized anymore after a decade of fading into the background. History was repeating itself. “Like” has now transformed from being used to get across a specific catchphrase description of the times such as “like gag me with a spoon”, to being used when the speaker does not have the needed descriptors to get across their thought (e.g.: “Like… you know…”).

With the next generation came the age of texting, which only added on to the updated use of “like” as a filler word. Children and adults had begun simplifying their online sentences, adding internet lingo and abbreviations to help with the brevity needed for posts, chats, texts, and tweets.

This transcended into colloquial use, causing a massive upheaval of SAT worthy vocabulary and the introduction of the modern day “like” to fill in the gaps. Speakers were verbalizing their pauses to think, mid-sentence and verbalizing with none other than “uhm”, “uh”, and “like”.

Nowadays, the word is still seen as a teen girl staple but is in fact meshed into the conversation style of several generations, genders, and nationalities of speakers.

Everyone and their mothers, and their mothers’ mothers have used “like”. This is the way of the world: to pause, to think, to abbreviate, to use “like”.

Just like with any other slang term, the only move to make is to hop on board the language train and accept any and all future language innovations coming from the “language innovators” or young women of their time.

And to those who refuse to jump on the linguistics bandwagon, well, “Linguist Patricia Cukor-Avila sardonically yet truthfully states ‘eventually all the people who hate this kind of thing are going to be dead, and the ones who use it are going to be in control.’” (Peterson).

So, like, yeah!

Cover Image Credit: Youtube

Popular Right Now

12 Signs You're From Jackman Maine

You know you're from Jackman just by these few things.
502
views

1. You never lock the doors

The entire parking lot at the store is filled with running cars, all of them with the keys still in the ignition. All are so easy to steal and yet no one touches them.

2. You almost never miss a sports game

Whether you are a sports fan or not, you almost never miss a game. Either you go to watch a friend play or to hang out, there are very few games that you have missed.

3. The cold doesn't bother you

I can't tell you how many times I've gone out in 20 degree weather in a t-shirt to do chores, or have shoveled off the deck in bare feet. Almost rarely the cold seems to be a bother.

4. You own either a snowmobile or ATV

Because what else is there to do in town? Seriously?

5. You've walked down the street all night

And you know that after 5, the road is silent. Unless it's on the weekends when everyone from Quebec is driving through.

6. You go to Old Mill and not the Town Park

Let the tourists go to the park and enjoy it, we'll just enjoy our sandy little b each.

7. You LOVE going to Slidedown

If you don't love the falls, are you even from around here? How can you not love going to Slidedown?

8. The tourists are hilarious

Now we won't say that to any of them because Jackman is a tourist town and needs to have the tourism, but some of the things that people say or do are laugh worthy.

9. Everyone has seen a moose in their backyard

And I mean everyone. I've seen one walk around in the Post Office parking lot, if they're wandering around there, they will be everywhere.

10. Hunting is a way of life

So is fishing. I don't think I know anyone in town who doesn't hunt or fish.

11. Everyone is shocked at your graduating class number

Every time I tell people I graduated in a class of 11, people stare at me like I just grew horns out of my head.

12. You know everyone

Self-explanatory.

Cover Image Credit: Bill Jarvis

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

If You Think Belly Dancing Is Sexual, You're Missing The Whole Point

Believe it or not, exposed stomachs aren't inherently sexual.

12
views

What we know as belly dancing here in America started in the middle east as a way for mothers to teach their daughters how to isolate certain muscles that they would use in childbirth, thus making the process an easier one when it was their time to go through it.

This cultural dance began with mothers teaching daughters behind closed doors where men weren't allowed to watch. It's possible that this fact helped cause some of the negative stigmas behind it by people who do not know its true origin.

Long story short (because I'm not looking to place false facts in this article), belly dancing moved over to America after a while and it wasn't necessarily accepted at first. Today, there is a multitude of belly dancing styles, including belly dance fusion which combines more traditional dancing with modern takes on it by blending multiple cultures or dancing styles.

You're probably wondering why a white girl such as myself is trying to educate you on something that clearly isn't a part of my own culture. Well, for those of you who don't know (or who couldn't recognize me from the cover photo), I belly dance at my university as part of an extracurricular club.

This club is easily one that I am most passionate about. I joined the club in my first semester as a freshman and have stuck with it for the past six semesters, and plan to stick with it for my last two. I came into the club with little previous dance experience and no previous belly dance experience, much like almost everyone else I've seen come and go.

I've heard of professors at my school who said they wouldn't go to our shows because it "made him uncomfortable." Why? Because our stomachs are out and we're moving our hips? That doesn't make our dancing inherently sexual.

We have a rule within our club that if any of us go out to parties, we cannot use belly dancing moves to try to woo guys or girls. Because guess what? That's not the point of belly dancing.

Related Content

Facebook Comments