Thoughts from the train, like

25 02 2014

When I was at school we weren’t allowed to use the words nice or good in essays or conversation. They are lazy words, apparently. To say that something, or someone, was nice or good saved having to think of a more appropriate adjectives, and lazy thinking was to be discouraged.

The same is true of like. You were discouraged from saying that you liked something, and were encouraged to think of a more substantial description. You could get away with using like as a comparator, as in “my love is like a red, red rose”, but my English teacher would have urged him instead to write, “just as a rose is fragrant and fragile, so is my love for you”. So I’m struggling to find reason for the current prevalence of the word like in most conversations.

When I say prevalence and most I should clarify that just at this moment, for me, current means the 9.31 train from Bridge of Allan to Edinburgh Waverley and the conversations in question are between the gaggle of young women sharing this carriage. For example, “Like, so he was like, shall we go the pub and I was like naw, like, no way”

Starting a sentence with like, makes no sense to me. The next phrase could be translated as ” So he said, shall we go to the pub and I said no”. Quite what the final like of the sentence is there for escapes me. The word like used for emphasis? Perhaps, then, “I said no, definitely no way”.

I’m from Liverpool so I’m no stranger to stray phrases tagging themselves to the end of sentences. The addition of “you know” to the end of most sentences is a good example but there is at least some semblance of reason here, the addition of a question to a statement to assure that the listener has understood and has to reply in the affirmative. But the word like dropped as confetti at seemingly random intervals is something I don’t understand.

Some random thoughts;
Will these young women still pepper their sentences with like when they are middle-aged? The image of women in twin sets and pearls, or fashioned like Les Dawson gossiping over the garden wall, using like as verb, adverb, adjective and noun is now stuck in my mind. And will they still have the Australian up-note at the end of each phrase?

What would Shakespeare write? Like, you know like, my love is like, well like a red, red rose, like”

For my part, what I would like, that is to say what I would really appreciate, is a quiet coach on the morning train!

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