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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hating Like

Slam poet Taylor Mali wrote a poem in 2005.  I like it.

Totally like whatever, you know?

In case you hadn't noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you're talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you're saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)'s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren't, like, questions? You know?

Declarative sentences — so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not -
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don't think I'm uncool just because I've noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It's like what I've heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I'm just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally...
I mean absolutely... You know?
That we've just gotten to the point where it's just, like...

And so actually our disarticulation... ness
is just a clever sort of... thing
to disguise the fact that we've become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since...
you know, a long, long time ago!

I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.

I don't understand what has happened.  I'm not that old.  But I do not remember ever using or hearing the word "like" like I hear it now.  I remember when it was funny, in a Valley Girl sort of way.  But I never thought it was, or could ever be, like, real, you know?

I remember learning about like: 

Like is used in similes, not in metaphors. 
"I play the guitar like Eric Clapton."  (Untrue, yet a good example.)

Like, Nick Cage is like, like, hot!
Like shows appreciation or a feeling towards someone or something.
I like bacon.  (Okay, I LOVE bacon.  But we're talking about like here.)

Like shows comparisons between two related things.
My watch is like his, except blue.

And then, there's finding out if someone likes you.  Usually, someone near you in study hall:
Do you Like me?  Circle one: yes     no

If you circled yes, you do Like me, do you Like Like me?   Circle one:  yes    no

If you circled yes, you do Like Like me, would you Like to hold my hand at lunch?  Circle one:  yes     no

But never as a word just randomly put in the middle of a sentence, one, two, seven times.  Maybe this is why we need unlimited minutes on our phones?  Our conversation time has to go up with the amount of likes are like in one like sentence.

People DO talk this way.  I do hear them.  All the time.  I cannot stand it.  In an effort to not get angry or scold strangers and friends about their complete misuse of the word and explain that "I like went to the park." is not a simile and then explain the rules of the road to them, or to simply ask them if they actually went to the park or did something resembling going to the park, I have started counting.  I count the likes in a sentence.  I count the likes while people are talking.  This is amusing. 

However, it gets me in trouble.  They usually want a response, and I like, don't have one.  The only thing I've heard is like, blah, blah, blah (one), like, blah, blah, blah, blah (two), like, blah, blah, blah, blah (three)...

Please, share your experience with like.  Do you say it?  If you do, can you tell me about it?  Do you hate it?  Do you want to punch anyone in the mouth because they use it so much?  Have you ever asked anyone to stop talking because of excessive use of the word?  Have you ever stopped listening to people who use it?


  1. I love the poem. So true. Where DID conviction go? With the flowers, the young girls and men? To graveyards every one?

    No. It lives still. It's up to people like you and me, Ivy, to light the way. To show them how to stand in truth, in conviction.

    It's time. Not like time. Time.

    Great to see you here, thanks for posting to FB.
    ~ that rebel, Olivia

  2. In like this post and reposted it on facebook!

  3. I used the word "like" peppered within sentences when I was much younger. It reminds of those who infuse their speech with "ums" amd "uhs". Once it becomes a habit, it is hard to break. I, in fact, have one of my YA characters using it in that fashion in her narration since it still is very much a part of younger-speak. I always thought it stemmed from the 80s and perhaps Valley Girl. Not sure.

  4. Hahh, that's very true! It's all become very fluffy, easy to escape and easy to explain things the opposite way. Very political, and very useful to people who need large audience. Very unnecessary in everyday life. Great post!
    - andrea, an A to Z participant

  5. I love that I have found my voice (finally) I question everything and I have solid convictions.
    Great post.

  6. I remember when it was valley girl talk, too, and it drives me nuts when someone uses it every other word. One here or there I can deal with, depending on how it's used, but not a constant flood. Great poem!

  7. Without "like" and "whatever," how could some people speak?

  8. Here's to making it this far, congratulations! I have an award for you!!