'Like' Is, Like, Not Going Anywhere... Um, OK?

Yes, it's an annoying verbal tic—but it can also be useful
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 13, 2010 1:02 PM CST
"Like" is the official word of the valley girl.   (©jurvetson)

(Newser) – “Like” is, like, the biggest filler word since, um, “you know,” and it, basically, gets on Christopher Hitchens’ nerves. But though “it’s true that in some cases the term has become simultaneously a crutch and a tic, driving out the rest of the vocabulary as candy expels vegetables,” it wasn’t always so—and, believe it or not, in a modified form it can actually be useful, he writes in Vanity Fair.

Unlike other filler words, “like” has had several “awesome” moments in its history—its appearance in A Clockwork Orange, for one—and even celebrated author Ian McEwan thinks it can be “very handy for spinning out a mere anecdote into a playlet that’s full of parody and speculation.” (Or, Hitchens adds, hyperbole.) The trick is to “prune and ration” your use of the word—while realizing “that it can’t be expelled altogether.”

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