I recently shot a music video for a song called War of Words by the very talented Ella on the Run. If you like catchy electro, check out Ella's earlier track, Golden Boys.
Ella on the Run - Golden Boys
During a packed day of filming I realised that I've come down with a serious affliction: I'm a 'liker'. Likers are people who use the word 'like' in a variety of ways that have nothing to do with a comparison or expressing a fondness for something. I had that Matrix moment of self-awareness when I heard myself saying the words, "I was like, you can't do that."
In this instance I'd replaced the perfectly satisfactory word 'said', with the words 'was like'. Once I'd realised that I was a liker, I caught myself using like in place of a pause. Instead of the dreaded 'er' I was subbing in the equally unattractive like. I found I was also using like as an unnecessary additional word, "So we went to the pub and there was like this guy who had no trousers on." There wasn't like this guy, there was just a guy.
Growing up in North West London, I was often mocked for being moderately well spoken. I don't think I was a defender of the Queen's English, but I certainly never used like as some sort of linguistic condiment, to be sprinkled liberally over every sentence. I wondered when I'd been struck by the affliction and just how far like has spread.
The news isn't good. Like has spread everywhere. Chances are you know a liker. You're probably no more than ten feet from one right now. You could well be a liker yourself. A quick, unscientific straw poll of half-a-dozen friends revealed only one non-liker; my UK manager, who has no time for superfluous words. A movie industry couple are severe likers, using like almost every other word. A well-respected businessman and senior partner in one of the world's largest professional services firms, is a moderate liker. A European musician, who has been living in London less than four years, is another severe liker. Primary school teacher; chronic liker. National journalist; severe liker. If you're a liker, chances are you won't even be aware of it.
Listen to Radio 1 and it's full of likers. Nick Grimshaw is a serious liker. Dev is another big liker. By the way, if you haven't heard his hilarious Strictly fan messaging service for Scott Mills check it out here.
Like is totally mainstream and, because we're deeply impressionable beings, it won't be long before it conquers the nation. None of the people I've spoken to realised they were likers, and most vowed to immediately cure themselves of the affliction. The trouble is it's very hard to undo linguistic programming, particularly when it's taken place without the subject even knowing it.
What really worries me about the rise of like is just how easily it's spread. Language is an expression of thought, and if it's that simple for an unwanted verbal affliction to invade the subconscious of so many people, what other ideas and behaviours might we have caught without realising it?
I'm making a conscious effort to stop mis-liking and am going to try to use the word like properly. For example, I really like this video of Jungle performing live in Bratislava.
Jungle - Live in Bratislava
Of course, that's easy to write. If I was saying it in person it would be like, "I like really like this like video of like Jungle performing like live in like Bratislava."