It used to be the nasty habit of valley girls. It spread to sororities and then fraternities. Now it can be heard while listening to just about anyone -- from trailer parks, to ballparks, to the halls of academia. Even tenured professors are guilty of this crime against concise speech. Apparently the fast pace of MTV has resulted in the omission the confident pause from the speech of most Americans. Certainly you have heard people tear up the spoken word as below.

"It was like 80 degrees outside."

"I was like, 'give me a break.' She was like 'I know what you mean.'"

"We had like this meeting and decided to spend like $200 on some new software."

"Well, like I didn't know where your apartment was and it's like foggy outside."

"The door was like locked."


Mike Brady: "What's all this "like" stuff?

Greg Brady: "That's the way high school kids talk dad!"

--From an episode of The Brady Bunch.

Things get even messier when the offender adds an "I mean" to the mix. Vocalized pauses have become the rage of Generation X and their progeny (slacker speech). Now instead of inserting an occasional and excusable "uhm" or "er" into their speech, people have turned to the word "like" and the phrase "I mean."

In my communication classes I have begun an anti-like campaign. Each time one of my students uses "like" as a vocalized pause I remind them of their transgression with a "beep" from my electronic timer. Since I can't be everywhere at once I offer the following rehab program for your home or school use.

How To Help Yourself

1. Ask yourself if the word "like" is necessary. Use it freely to make comparisons (similes) or indicate your affection for a person or object such as "I like Cindy," or "I like that pizza." Or use "like" any way you wish according to the following definition: LIKE

2. If the word carries no meaning in the sentence omit it. If you need to, pause, and do so with confidence.

3. Ask yourself if you actually mean to use a different word. If you are describing a conversation use the word "said."

4. Admit you have a problem and ask your friends for help. Ask them to listen to you carefully and scold you each time you use "like" inappropriately.

How To Help Others

1. Whenever someone uses the word "like" as a vocalized pause look confused and say "I don't know what you are talking about."

2. Make an obnoxious noise when an offender uses "like."

3. If you are on the phone with the offender hang up or mash the keys making annoying beeps.

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