Where “Like” Came From And Why Its So Hard To Get Rid Of



The “like” trend has its roots in the 1970s, originating in a dialect called Valleyspeak in California’s San Fernando Valley. It was characterized by excessive use of “like” as a filler word, replacing “says” with “goes,” and frequent use of “I mean.” While its usage has become more widespread across age groups, overusing “like” is often viewed negatively in formal settings, as it can hinder communication and dilute the intended message.

One significant moment in the evolution of “like” was its adoption into teenage slang in the late 20th century. Popularized by the Valley Girls of the 1980s, the phrase “like, totally” became emblematic of a generation’s speech patterns. This marked its ascent to linguistic stardom.

The reasons for the rise of “like” are multifaceted. It became a social marker for specific groups, a way to identify with each other and establish a sense of belonging. It can also function as a hesitation, contributing to a more casual and conversational tone. Some argue that it acts as a hedge, softening statements or opinions to make them less definitive.

In contemporary discourse, “like” has evolved into a multifaceted tool for expressing uncertainty, approximation, or simply as a filler in speech. It has become a linguistic crutch, aiding in the articulation of thoughts and ideas, often serving as a pause or a segue in conversation.

The overuse of “like” is a complex issue. It can mitigate the perceived abruptness or directness of speech, acting as a softener in interpersonal interactions. However, its excessive use can detract from the clarity and coherence of communication, diluting the intended message. It can also undermine credibility and contribute to generational divides, reinforcing stereotypes about certain age groups or social cohorts.

In conclusion, “like” has emerged as a versatile yet polarizing figure in the tapestry of language. Its origins may be humble, but its journey through linguistic history has been extraordinary. From its inception to its current status as a linguistic juggernaut, “like” continues to shape the way we communicate, for better or worse. As we navigate the complexities of modern speech, let us remain mindful of the power that words hold and the impact of their overuse on our collective discourse.

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