Nov 3rd 2019, 1:37:43
The word like has developed several non-traditional uses in informal speech. Especially since the late 20th century onward, it has appeared, in addition to its traditional uses, as a colloquialism across all dialects of spoken English, serving as a discourse particle, filler, hedge, speech disfluency, or other metalinguistic unit. Although these particular colloquial uses of like appear to have become widespread rather recently, its use as a filler is a fairly old regional practice in Welsh English and, in Scotland, it was used similarly at least as early as the 19th century. It may also be used in a systemic format to allow individuals to introduce what they say, how they say and think.
Despite such prevalence in modern-day spoken English, these colloquial usages of like rarely appear in writing (unless the writer is deliberately trying to replicate colloquial dialogue) and they have long been stigmatized in formal speech or in high cultural or high social settings. Furthermore, this use of like seems to appear most commonly, in particular, among natively English-speaking children and adolescents, while less so, or not at all, among middle-aged or elderly adults. One suggested explanation for this phenomenon is the argument that younger English speakers are still developing their linguistic competence, and, metalinguistically wishing to express ideas without sounding too confident, certain, or assertive, use like to fulfill this purpose.
In pop culture, such colloquial applications of like (especially in verbal excess) are commonly and often comedically associated with Valley girls, as made famous through the song "Valley Girl" by Frank Zappa, released in 1982, and the film of the same name, released in the following year. The stereotyped "valley girl" language is an exaggeration of the variants of California English spoken by younger generations.
This non-traditional usage of the word has been around at least since the 1950s, introduced through beat and jazz culture. The beatnik character Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver) in the popular Dobie Gillis TV series of 1959-1963 brought the expression to prominence; this was reinforced in later decades by the character of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo (who was based on Krebs).
A very early use of this locution can be seen in a New Yorker cartoon of 15 September 1928, in which two young ladies are discussing a man's workplace: "What's he got - an awfice?" "No, he's got like a loft."
It is also used in the 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange by the narrator as part of his teenage slang and in the Top Cat cartoon series from 1961 to 1962 by the jazz beatnik type characters.
A common eye dialect spelling is lyk.
Like can be used in much the same way as "um..." or "er..." as a discourse particle. It has become common especially among North American teenagers to use the word "like" in this way; see Valspeak, discourse marker, and speech disfluency:
I, like, don't know what to do.
It is also becoming more often used (Northern England English, Hiberno-English and Welsh English in particular) at the end of a sentence, as an alternative to you know. This usage is sometimes considered to be a colloquial interjection and it implies a desire to remain calm and defuse tension:
I didn't say anything, like.
Just be cool, like.
Use of like as a filler has a long history in Scots English, as in Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel Kidnapped:
'What'll like be your business, mannie?'
'What's like wrong with him?' said she at last.
Like can be used as hedge to indicate that the following phrase will be an approximation or exaggeration, or that the following words may not be quite right, but are close enough. It may indicate that the phrase in which it appears is to be taken metaphorically or as a hyperbole. This use of like is sometimes regarded as adverbial, as like is often synonymous here with adverbial phrases of approximation, such as "almost" or "more or less." Examples:
I have, like, no money.
The restaurant is only, like, five miles from here.
I, like, died!
They, like, hate you!
In the UK Reality Television Series Love Island the word ‘Like’ has been used an average of 300 times per episode, much to the annoyance of viewers.