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Why We Shouldn't Hate the Word "Like"

Think "like" is an offense on the English language introduced by Valley Girls in the 1980s? Think again.

Think "like" is an offense on the English language introduced by Valley Girls in the 1980s? Think again.

Language gripes have the staying power of cockroaches and Betty White. Complaints about “their” being used as a singular pronoun are rarely quelled by the fact that it’s been used that way since the 1300s. The seemingly harmless “no problem” continues to annoy people who feel “you’re welcome” is the only acceptable response to “thank you.” (Myself, I favor, “That’s what your mom said.") Let’s not even get into the complaints about “whom”—a word as dead as disco that just won't go away.


Then there’s “like,” especially the type I just overheard on the street: “I’m just, like, so excited because I’m, like, so passionate about it.” That’s the version people think is almost always used by women and teens and makes anyone sound foolish. Recently, the wonderful Emma Thompson came out as a like-hater. I can’t say I like “like” much myself, but this word is surrounded by more illusions than a magician’s convention, and they should be dispelled.

First, let’s take the mostly non-controversial meanings. No one I know has a problem with “like” as a comparative word, but I guess that’s because I missed the fifties by two decades. As Christopher Hitchens wrote in an excellent essay: Winstons' “tastes good, like a cigarette should” slogan was loathed by fans of “as,” to which the company’s next ad responded, “What do you want, good grammar, or good taste?” In reality, “like” with this sense is extremely established; it’s been around since the 1600s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. As usual, the language peevers were wrong about the wrongs they tried to right.

“Like” in the sense of “liking” is similarly non-offensive, at least until the takeover of Facebook's ubiquitous “like” feature. This use of “like” reduces the term to an effortless, meaningless gesture, much like the “favorite” feature on Twitter. As Victor Pineiro writes, “'Like' is a vast expanse, covering things I feel lukewarm about, things I'm fond of and objects toward which I exhibit a smoldering passion. But give me a sunny day and some good music and there are few things I don't like—which makes the button a notoriously easy impulse click.” Not a lot to like there.

Facebook is also home to some old-fashioned peeving, as seen in the groups “Abolish inappropriate use of the word LIKE in the English Language” and “Excessive misuse of the word 'LIKE': A Manifesto.” The latter refers to “like” as a “common scourge” that acts as a parasite on its “unaware hosts.” This sense of “like” as a disease can also be found in the writing of far more informed sources, such as etymologist Anatoly Liberman, who calls it a “plague.”

Despite these exaggerated, medicalized descriptions, there is nothing particularly flu-ish or vermin-like about “like”—all of its uses obey rules and have meaning. One sense functions like “said,” as in “He was like, ‘Whoa.’” Another is what linguists call a discourse marker; words such as “like” and “you know” and “um” separate words and phrases in a way that sounds will-nilly but is governed by rules. It seems like you can stick “like” anywhere in a sentence, but you can’t and people don’t. In speech, discourse markers help us communicate. There’s nothing remotely new about this; the OED has an example from 1778: “Father grew quite uneasy, like, for fear of his Lordship's taking offence.”

A few years ago, Alexandra D’arcy wrote a comprehensive look at disliked “like” in the linguistics journal American Speech called “Like and Language Ideology: Disentangling Fact from Fiction.” One of the fictions is that “like” is an Americanism inflicted on us by the Valley Girls of the eighties. That’s incorrect, as it is older (see the previous paragraph) and can be found among English-speakers all over the world. In fact, the existence of elderly “like” users in the U.K. and New Zealand disproves the American-ness of like as well as the supposed youth-iness. In another blow to stereotypes, women don’t use “like” more often than men. “Like” really is more common among teens than other groups, but all age groups from teens to geezers use it. Everyone uses “like.” Maybe that’s why everyone seems to hate it.

At this point, I wish I could say “Put that information in your pipe, smoke it, and take it easy on ‘like’ from now on.” But all the citations and study in the world can’t dispute the reality that saying “like” too much makes people sound like morons. And while I’d love to throw it off the roof of a high building, I can't. It’s far too ingrained in our speech, with too many meanings and uses. We’re, like, stuck with it.

Source photo for illustration by Alan Fairweather.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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Politics