Written by Christopher Hitchens, Illustration by Tim Sheaffer

Many parents and teachers have become irritated to the point of distraction at the way the weed-style growth of “like” has spread through the idiom of the young. And it’s true that in some cases the term has become simultaneously a crutch and a tic, driving out the rest of the vocabulary as candy expels vegetables. But it didn’t start off that way, and might possibly be worth saving in a modified form.

So it can be of use to a natural raconteur. Ian McEwan rather surprised me when I asked him about “like,” telling me that “it can be used as a pause or a colon: very handy for spinning out a mere anecdote into a playlet that’s full of parody and speculation.” And also of hyperbole, as in “She’s been out with, like, a million guys.”

Believe me when I say I have tried to combat the word when teaching my class, and with some success (you have to talk well in order to write well, and you can’t write while using “like” as punctuation). But I realize that it can’t be expelled altogether. It can, however, be pruned and rationed, and made the object of mockery for those who have surrendered to it altogether. The restoration of the word “as,” which isn’t that hard a word to master, along with “such as,” would also be a help in varying the national lingo.

A speech idiosyncrasy, in the same way as an air quote, is really justifiable only if it’s employed very sparingly and if the user consciously intends to be using it. Just to try to set an example—comparing “like” to “like,” as you might say—I have managed to write all the above without using the word once, except in inverted commas. Why not try it? You might, like, like it.

Note: This is an excerpt; to read the full article from Vanity Fair>>>ChristopherHitchens-VanityFair

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