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In the video JULIA BOORSTIN -- Interview a Broadcaster! -- American English (0:34 to 1:20), a reporter from an American news television channel mentions that it's not a good idea to use the word 'like'.

I've tried to find some information about it but nothing comes up in Google. Does anyone know why 'like' shouldn't be used and in what contexts it's invalid?

Below the line is my first guess, but it's completely wrong and can be ignored:


I assume that it's not about this kind of sentence:

I like learning.

But it's more about this kind of sentences:

  • Flying a plane is like driving a car but it's a bit more complicated.
  • You can multiply a number by two to have an even number, like 3*2=6.
18

Some people, like use like all the time, as like, a sort of filler, like, so often that it like gets in the way of understanding what they like mean. And like, David Foster Wallace might get away with it, though some would like criticise him for it too, but it can also make what you say like sort of uncertain sounding.

The same applies to other filler such as um and eh, but it's worse with like because that does have a semantic interpretation those lack, suggesting that you are qualifying what you say; e.g. "It was like really good to see you" suggests that it wasn't quite really good, just something approximating it.

Fillers do serve a role; we do sometimes need time to consider what we want to say next, but heavy use weakens diction and impedes comprehension.

Edit: sort of can sometimes be over-used in a similar way. I notice I added sort of into my example above in places where it would be ill-advised, without thinking about it; it just came naturally when trying to write badly for the example.

  • 6
    The most egregious example I’ve ever heard of the Valleyspeak ‘like’ was a girl sitting on the bus, talking on the phone to what I can only assume must have been a girl friend. She was rather obnoxiously loudly discussing her love life, and whether being fond of cuddling was an indication of loose morals for a young girl, and she uttered the phrase (as precisely and unpunctuatedly as I can recall), “Like, it’s not like I like told him that I like like-like like the petting stuff like.” Almost buffaloesque, but found in (allegedly) natural speech. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 25 '13 at 23:20
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    @JanusBahsJacquet in some parts of Dublin, one will hear loike in an area that contains a university campus and hence often gets picked by new students. Some pick it up in that sense, but retain their earlier accent otherwise, and so one can hear things like "I loike really like the way they loike made it look like a modern-day city but loike kept the original words". – Jon Hanna Nov 25 '13 at 23:31
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I think they're referring to using "like" to prevent yourself from being interrupted during a pause for thought, similar to the way "um" or "uh" is used. This is often considered a disfluency. The stereotype is of a young girl speaking a run on, rambling sentence with "like" between each phrase.

Here's a particularly disturbing example. "We were, like, forty minutes into the flight,and then, like, we, like, hear this, like ..."

  • Folks, the questions is nothing like what you make it out to be. Give it a re-read. – Kris Nov 25 '13 at 13:31
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    @Kris I read it, and even watched the video. I'm pretty sure it was this use of "like" that was being talked about. If you disagree, please explain why. – David Schwartz Nov 25 '13 at 13:59
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    @Kris The question is why a reporter would advise against using the word 'like'. The questioner makes an assumption about why and is curious if their assumption is correct. My answer is that their assumption is not correct. They close with "Does anyone know why 'like' shouldn't be used and in what contexts it's invalid?" which I answer. – David Schwartz Nov 25 '13 at 14:07
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    @Kris Yes, the OP was explaining his assumption before asking if his assumption was correct. My answer is that it is probably not. How did you understand the question? What did you think the OP was asking? – David Schwartz Nov 25 '13 at 14:15
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    @Kris, the video, like, explicitly references, like, L.A. Valley girls, who are, like, notorious for, like, talking this way. – zzzzBov Nov 25 '13 at 20:33
4

A key part of the quote from the video is that Julia was not to sound like an L.A. Valley girl

Julia: ...and both of them were determined that I was not going to sound like an L.A. Valley girl,
Rachel: okay
J: so my whole life they were obsessed with this idea that I enunciate and pronounce things properly and fully, and I not use the word "like".

If you're not familiar with the stereotypical L.A. Valley girl accent (also known as "Valleyspeak"), it typically involves excessive use of the word "like".

  • 1
    Thank you for the quote and the movie link! Now I exactly understand what's it all about :) Thanks! – Paul Nov 26 '13 at 19:07
1

A very different reason might lie behind the reporter's remark, particularly because American English is involved. One of my elementary school teachers during the early 1960s despaired of getting my classmates and me to use "like" correctly due to the corrupting influence of a widely televised cigarette jingle: "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should." The corruption was not that we might start to smoke, but that "like" had been used instead of "as." The jingle stuck better than her instruction had, most of us could not reliably tell when "like" was acceptable, and she finally gave up. "If you are not sure you are using 'like' correctly," she told us resignedly, "do not use it at all." This was not a local issue. After moving 2,000 miles from the West Coast to the Great Lakes, I encountered teachers who despaired of the same problem, stemming from the same jingle, yielding the same resigned admonishment. To this day, I avoid using "like" as anything but a verb, and seldom hear my fellow Baby Boomers use it any other way. Cigarette commercials on U.S. TV were banned as of January 1, 1971, so the teachers of Gen Xers might have had an easier time getting them to grasp the proper uses of "like."

-5

Use like in that 'similar to/ such as/ ' sense when nothing else needs to be stated in order to be complete and unambiguous.

he used to have a car like mine
they were like brothers
she looked nothing like Audrey Hepburn
why are you talking about me like that?
the cautionary vision of works like Animal Farm and 1984

Both your presumed to-avoid examples are grammatical.

Flying a plane is like driving a car but it's a bit more complicated. (similar to)
You can multiply a number by two to have an even number, like 3*2=6. (the same way as, for example)

However, like is a poor choice in the first case because it is unclear here as to 'in what way/ in what respect(s)'; it even sounds like you contradict yourself later.

Flying a plane is like similar to driving a car but it's a bit more complicated. ('similar to' cautions that it is 'like but not the same').

In the second case, the intention is to present a use-case/ example (3*2=6) to illustrate the process just stated (multiply a number by two to have an even number).

You can multiply a number by two to have an even number, like for example, 3*2=6.

Though like can function as more than one POS, has many uses and is probably the easiest to read and understand, it can easily make a statement ambiguous. Avoid it for that reason, in favor of a more precise word that makes the statement clear.

  • Upon consideration, I think one can interpret what's said in the video either as you did, or as I did. I prefer like in the car/plane example though; both are valid, and I can't see how one could interpret like in a misleading way. – Jon Hanna Nov 25 '13 at 14:34
  • Flying a plane is like driving a car ... ('Oho, I thought it was difficult!') -- ... but it's a bit more complicated. (Wait, I thought you said it was as easy as ... or what was it that you really said?) – Kris Nov 25 '13 at 14:38
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    The caveat of complications is still there. Conversely, if you said "flying a plane is similar to driving a car" I'd think you just as wrong as if you used like. – Jon Hanna Nov 25 '13 at 14:57
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    Listening to it again, I withdraw that, I really can't see how you can interpret the video that way. The training approach wouldn't have made any sense other than with the filler like. – Jon Hanna Nov 25 '13 at 17:17

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