I don’t like you…

Published on 17 June 2019 by Adam Leigh

When my children were growing up, I would punch them on the arm if they used the word like gratuitously to discourage them from adopting it as a verbal tic. Violence of course is frowned up in polite liberal circles, but in my defence, I would like to point out that:

  1. It was a light symbolic tap
  2. It worked
  3. They invariably hit me back

My unorthodox parenting technique has been vindicated this week by the news of a Love Island inspired backlash against its excessive use. A clip has emerged from the show of the word being used 76 times in under 5 minutes. Kind of, you know, sort of, I mean frightening. After all, those young, beautiful people are meant to be our role models.

The debate has come to the fore because Copthorne Primary school in Bradford has banned pupils from peppering their conversation with the word. This has received backing from education minister Nick Gibb, who is actively pushing for other schools to follow suit. No one is currently suggesting the “Leigh Arm Tap” as we refer to it fondly in our house. Surely, it is only a matter of time until it receives a little more respect from the educational community?

Talking of which, there has even been lots of academic research into how our speech patterns have been assaulted so viciously.  Elizabeth Buchstaller, from the University of Edinburgh wrote in her 2002 paper: (“He goes and I’m like: The new Quotatives re-visited”)

Consider for example Romaine and Lange’s (1991) grammaticalization channel based on Traugott’s (1982) model. This model is symptomatic for unidirectional approaches, as it traces the diachronic development of like, concentrating on the syntactic development of the marker and trying to link it up with the semantic-pragmatic facts”

If you say so Professor, although rather a superficial explanation if you ask me.  Actually, I think it is a case that we have all become a bit lazy. The digital liberation of communication has meant that we have multiple, incomplete conversations and we are always struggling to translate the volume of intertwined thoughts we have into a coherent narrative. Accuracy in our written words too, from texts and emails to social media posts, is secondary to the need to sustain a dialogue at all times.

Inevitably we need to all be a fraction more considered in our dialogue, verbal or written. Monster.com proffers this very basic advice to would-be candidates entering the job market.

You don’t have to study elocution to speak well. Simply slow down, take time to pronounce all the syllables and leave slang at home. Companies want job candidates who are well-spoken and articulate, and recruiters won’t represent a job candidate if they don’t match the client’s profile.

This is true for the entirety of your career and a reminder to pause and consider in the accelerated pursuit of greatness. Think before you speak.  Old fashioned verbal discipline and dexterity in the interview room is seriously undervalued these days.

Thus endeth my pious sermon on the merits of proper sentences without stuttered qualifiers. I am looking for new suggestions as to why I should carry on thwacking my pretty-much grown up children these days. They speak quite well, but they are so annoying.