This is exhausting you know, like, we are never getting back together. Like, ever. –Taylor Swift

“Oh my gosh! And I was like, sure, and he was like, really? Like, I mean, do you think he likes me?”

What is it that annoys you from the sentences above? I am going to assume it’s the overuse use of the word “like”? If it is, we’re on the same page. The word “like” is a useful and convenient word. It can be applied in a sentence as an adjective, verb, adverb, and rarely, a noun. However, in the modern world, the word “like” has gotten unhinged from its meaning. In other words, we have abused the actual word to the extend where the meaning no longer exists.

This is an example of filler words. They are used as supporting devices in a sentence, either to make a sentence smoother or to make the speakers themselves uninterruptible. Other examples include the occasional “ums”, “you knows”, and “I means.”  

It wasn’t until this spring during my German Exchange Program that I noticed that English speakers have the tendency to add “like” as a filler to their daily conversations and statements. During one of our café afternoons, my Austrian friend, Ina, suddenly mentioned how we use way too much “like” in our sentences.

She then began pointing out every single “like” that’s been used in our sentences until all of my friends and I became too self-conscious about what was coming off our tongues. After her announcement about the excessive use of “like”, I begin noticing every single “like” that came out of my friends’ mouths and mine since then. Simply noticing “like” has become, and is still, one of my pet peeves.

If you have been infected by the “like” habit, don’t fret because there is still hope in changing. Before you change, you have to notice the unintentional occurrence. Record yourself telling a story as if you were chatting with your friend. Then, go back to the recording and count how many times the word “like” was used. Now, while listening to the recording, repeat the sentence, this time without the word “like.” Practice until you can say the whole story without an intention in “filler-speech.”

But hey, it’s not that the world is going to end if you use the word every time you speak. According to an article in The Journal of Language and Social Psychology, researchers have stated that a likely explanation for this association is that people are generally more aware of themselves and their surroundings. They want to suggest their desire in sharing or rephrasing their ideas with their audiences. Hence, people who speak in filler-speeches are constantly redrafting as they speak, to make their expressions as accurate as possible.

Now, I might have brought awareness to the word “like” and you are probably going to notice it like every time you talk to your friends.