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How Bad Is It to Say "Like"?

How Bad Is It to Say "Like"?

I admit, I say it. Not in a pathological, valley-girl way, but in a casual, filler way. Sometimes it's unconscious, a nervous tick, and other times it punctuates a thought and just sounds right. It's easy, it's colloquial, and it's so widespread that I thought nobody cared anymore. After all, this is a language where BFF can make it into the dictionary!

But this week actress Emma Thompson brought "like" back into the negative spotlight when she lamented that teenagers need to avoid saying it around older, authority figures. Does it even have anything to do with youth at this point? Aren't the teenagers who made it mainstream in the early '80s now in their, like, 40s?

There are several grammatically incorrect ways to use like, but that doesn't make them uncommon. It can indicate exaggeration, as I did above ("in their, like, 40s"); be used to introduce a quote ("she was like"); or signify a gesture, facial expression, or sound ("it was like"). But nowhere is it more common than as a filler (as in "um" or "ah" or "like"), and fillers are nothing new.


John Ayto, editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang, said fillers are not lazy or sloppy, or a sign of approaching end-times for the English language. "We all use fillers because we can't keep up highly monitored, highly grammatical language all the time," he said. "We all have to pause and think." In fact, Anglo Saxons probably did the same thing.

The reason people like Thompson get so upset with the use of "like" as a filler is because, unlike "um" and "ah," it's an actual word. And if there's one thing word traditionalists don't like, it's when words find breakout success by using themselves in entirely new ways.

I say as long as it's not, like, every other word out of your mouth, you're OK.

bellakaoru bellakaoru 7 years
A few year ago I started trying to phase it out of my vocabulary, but without much success. Sometimes there's just no substitute, as in 'it's like a million degrees today!'. I guess as long as it's not too often it's ok. I try not to use filler words either, often filling pauses with hand gestures or looking upwards as if in search of a word. It's an interesting topic, though, speech patterns...
MissSushi MissSushi 7 years
I use it all the time to describe action, like using "like" instead of "so, I said"
Desert Desert 7 years
I'm not being a snob or anything, but I try avoid using fillers like 'umm' and 'ah' in conversations anyway. I do use the word like, but more in the "I was like..." way. I understand people will use it and I guess it is a sign of the times. However, it only starts to get annoying when all I hear is that word.
inlove23 inlove23 7 years
I'm so guilty of saying like a lot. Most of the time I don't realize it though because it really is a "filler", and luckily I'm not too much of a valley girl about it =)
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 7 years
When I was a teenager and college student, I was notorious for this, as I was a Valley girl ("Omigod, like, no way!"). I was teased about it. As I got older, I dialed it back, especially when I started my career. I had to carry professional conversations. However, truthfully, with the right crowd of people, I could EASILY fall back into that way of speaking. Once a Valley girl, always a Valley girl. :)
starbucks2 starbucks2 7 years
I am German and spend one year going to an American high school. So, while I was already pretty fluent, I really learned to speak English in high school. With high school girls, where every other word is 'like'! So now, it's really hard for me to get over it...I am majoring in English now, and it's not appreciated by teachers...
postmodernsleaze postmodernsleaze 7 years
I say it regularly, but I agree with tlsgirl. There's a degree to which saying it isn't bad, but there's also people who constantly say it and it gets a little annoying.
Frenched Frenched 7 years
I don't really encounter these kinds of people that often so, it's usually not a problem. I think it's fine as long as it's not in every sentence you speak.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 7 years
As long as it's not constant it doesn't bother me. When I start to wonder "why is she saying like so much?" then it's a problem.
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