Whatever’s Happened to the Word ‘Like’?

Some flowers nice enough to like

There was a time when the word ‘like’ was used, on the one hand, either as a conjunction meaning ‘similar, resembling’ or ‘in a suitable state for’  ripe with many possibilities of misinterpretation (as in ‘I feel like a black coffee’), or on the other, as a verb, meaning ‘to find agreeable, congenial or satisfactory’.

It’s always been a rather dull word, similarly inexpressive as, say, ‘nice’, a word that you would use only if you couldn’t be bothered to think of one of the many more colourful and interesting synonyms.

Perhaps its very dullness, its insipid half heartedness, is what has given it the recent supercharging in its usage.

Now there is the special kind of liking made possible by Facebook, a little flag that indicates, yes, it was interesting enough to read, but it’s not really inspired me enough to write anything original in return.  Where a ‘friend’ (a whole other minefield of new meaning lies therein) has posted something demanding mutual outrage, what a cacophony of desire for a ‘don’t like’ button is unleashed.  Disagreement requires words, agreement can now be entirely half hearted and passive.

‘Thank you for ‘liking’ the blog post on Facebook’

‘You’re welcome.  I really did actually like it; you know, like in the real world ‘liking’.’


And then there’s the way that some people litter their sentences with the word almost at random.  I’ve even caught the virus, and have heard myself say it.  It’s got to stop. Even ‘er’ and ‘um’ are preferable.

I’ve grown used to hearing people in the street

‘And I’m like, duh, and he’s like, whatever.’  They’re usually young, with shiny faces, a carrier bag from Primark in one hand and their mobile phone in the other.

Last week however I had to step to the side of the pavement to allow two people, who had been having a conversation too close to my ear, to walk past me, specifically so I could look at them, so far from the stereotype did they sound.

‘So I like go, the warranties and indemnities just won’t wash.’

‘Sounds like the right way to deal with him, innit?’

And he’s like but this is like a negotiation. There’s gotta be compromise. And I go, so like, I’m listening.’

Two young women in black suits, carrying a couple of lever arch files each, grey handbags adorned with too many buckles over their shoulders, tottering on high patent leather heels, heads down, so deep in their own world they don’t notice me making notes.

I want  both to thank them for making me challenge my prejudices and to shout after them ‘Talk proper, innit!’

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