Kids in every era try to develop their own language – buzz words that in their time imply hip – cool – distinctly not their father’s Oldsmobile or their mother’s for that matter.
In the 50’s when Frank Sinatra’s golden arm was immortalizing heroin addiction and withdrawal, and Bill Haley introduced us to jitterbuggers rocking around the clock on a blackboard jungle – it was hip to say, like wow! Like real! Drums weren’t played – you blew drums – an engagement was a gig.
Having just experienced the decade of the 90’s with my baby daughter – 8 to 18 – I have watched with growing alarm the use – misuse – and overwhelming overuse of the word like, even among the best educated of our youth – some of their teachers, and in recent years many of their middle-aged parents. I often suspect that mom and dad for some inexplicable reason think saying “like” every third or fourth word makes them appear younger – more with-it.
To sit and listen to a group of teenagers talk to each other is like excruciating.
One of my daughter’s closest friends, a National Merit finalist, top ten in the top high school in her state, is incapable of beginning a sentence with any word other than like, or completing any sentence without at least one misplaced like. Dubbing her “like Jenny” and insisting that she say something to me without the word like – she was rendered speechless.
While I have tried to browbeat and intimidate my daughter into laying off the likes, telling her she sounds like a Valley Girl, each new call from college adds a growing number of likes. It is like living in Alabama without ultimately developing a drawl – like impossible.
Coincident to this nationwide avalanche of likes, is the universally improper use of the rejoinder – “no problem”.
Thanking a clerk for ringing up a sale, a bagger for bagging your groceries, a secretary for connecting your attorney – instead of you’re welcome – no problem. No problem doesn’t fit, but like “like”, it must be hip – because among teenagers no problem is a solid runner up to like.
There are good reasons to believe that at some point as these kids enter the work force and it becomes hip to sound like an adult, the like syndrome will dissipate, as I haven’t heard anyone say “like wow” in over 40 years.
What’s likely to take like’s place? - push “no problem” to the back of the bus? – impossible to predict. I, for one, will like really appreciate it when it’s like no longer necessary to like finish this column without leaving you with like unanswered questions.