"I was like, you know, like, wondering for years, like, how the word "like", like is missused by like, almost everybody" Or," How Maynard G Krebbs, infected our vocabulary, through technology"

Dear Classroom Members,


This has been a long journey of discovery.

It has always amazed me that so many teens and adults cannot speak a sentence without saying the word like 3 times.


I first noticed this phenomena in 1992....Yup! A long time ago. I had moved to Northern NJ and opened a small retail store. One of my young employees, a 17 year old girl, used the word "like" incessantly! I then started to notice the usage on TV shows that featured "Valley Girl" characters


OK! But how did this rural teenager become exposed to the Moon Zappa crowd? The internet was evolving and I began to casually search for a reference. Once again, quotes from Frank Zappa and the Southern California narrative contained this "was like" generational usage.

But still, how did the usage spread so deeply into our patterns of speach?


There were a few newspaper articles noting the usage, and over time, I began to notice the usage in print and radio advertising. And, WORSE!, my children, now in middle school, were using the word "like" with every spoken thought.

GRRRRR! "Like, like, like, like, like"...was my characteristic respone.

This was driving me nuts, but thanks to YouTube and Wikopedia, I have finally resolved the vector of the language virus.

There are not too many of our members that remeber "The Dobie Gillis Show" from 1959 to 1963. Well, I do! One of the featured characters was Maynard G Krebbs, a "beatnick" sidekick of Dobie that provided the humor of cultural conflict. He always used the word "LIKE".


Thanks to YouTube, I was able to relive those "wonder years" of mine.

That was the start of the virus, but how did it spread across the country....I didn't use the word like, Maynard did not infect my speach patterns. Then the revelation! A friend mentioned that a character on "Scooby Do" used the word like,,,,I checked it out on Wikopedia, and Guess What! The creator of" Scooby Do" cast his characters directly from the Dobie Gillis Show....Shaggy Rogers was Maynard G Krebbs. Now it all made sense, Young children, in their formative years are watching this show daily! They are picking up the language patterns from their exposure to TV and adults.....More TV than adults, for sure.

After 18 years, the Case is solved, my mind can rest on this one! So, if you get a minute or two, watch an excerpt of Dobie Gillis, from the Golden Years of Black and White TV, You'll gain a new appreciation of the words "LIKE" and "WORK".



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Proof "viral" existed before teh interwebs...

Thanks for the research and fun facts.
Thanks Chris,

I have come across many studies over the years, concerning the affect that TV, AKA the media, has on children's behavior and develpoment. I am certain that it does influence learning and moral development. In the 50's and 60' every TV show had a moral. Good always triumphed Evil. Whether it was Roy Rogers, Marshall Matt Dillon or Hody Doody, continuing through the Star Trek Generation, truth, justice, honor, and loyality conquered greed, dishonesty, and lawflesness. That's a common thread in Human Drama from the Greek tragedies to Harry Potter. Good wins, Evil Loses.(but those Greek Gods really liked to torture those heros) I am pretty sure that this plot continues on TV today, always distinguishing good behavior from bad, and Order from Chaos.

I am convinced that speech and vocabulary are also affectted. This might present a Thesis for those aspiring educators, be my guest.
Thanks for the comment....Now I have to figure out that "Time-Space Continum" thing....there's a little more to that then meets the eye.
The Facebook "Like" button won't make this easier ;-)
this was interesting, i used the word "like" so much it actually annoys me. I have no idea why or where i must of picked it up but its the word i use when I'm trying to stall. For example,when I'm trying to find the next sentence to say..haha if that makes any sense. But it seems as if your correct, growing up watching t.v such as Scooby Do and what not might of trigger that over used word. I'm actually trying to watch what i say, when i had speech class it went away for awhile, due to the fact that my teacher would make me start all over if i used it more than twice.
Dear Crystal,

I find myself using the "like word" as well. I still here news commentators say it on TV, especially when they go off script. I have even seen it in printed advertising in major magazines, and in radio ads.
The usage starts somewhere in Middle School and lingers on through young adulthood.. I'm glad that your Speech teacher was strict about it. My children are very careful with their phrasing when they speak with me,,,I tell them that smart kids need to sound smart too.

I have certainly paid this topic way too much attention over the years..most of my family are sick of me talking about it..But I think that I have the sequence nailed down after all these years.

Now I need another quest....any ideas???
Hearing someone use the word "like" repetitively is highly irritating. Granted I am guilty of saying it as well, but leave it up to the world of technology to make a simple word be used in such excess today. Great post and thanks for sharing all the facts behind it!
Dear Jessica,
Over the years I have tracked down a few articles on this usage. Their explanations were theoretical and could not expalin the nationalized adoption of the "like word". We all normally adapt our patterns of speech, based on our exposure. It is a natural process. When we relocate to a new area, we sound funny to others, but over time, we pick up the local lingo.
There are many pronunciations that are regional, or city specific. There is also a commonality to phrases that are specific to areas of the US. There are times, when I speak to some areas of the US, that I cannot readily understand the other person on the phone. Overall, speech and speech patterns are interesting.

Thanks for the compliments....JJC
I have always associated the "like" phenomenon with teenage girls. It's funny that your research leads to two boys as the perpetrators! Beyond being irritating, it has a detrimental effect on the outcome of the speakers position. When I hear a scholarly and thoughtful presentation interspersed with "likes", it definitely lessens the quality of that presentation. What do you think?
Dear Terry,
I don't want to be labeled a sexist, but young girls seem to speak a lot more than boys, LOL.
However, I have two sons and one daughter. Both of my boys were guilty of the "like word" as well as my daughter.
Poor speech patterns affect all classes of people. I'll cite one in particular, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of JFK. One year ago, she was being considered as a nominee for Hillary's empty Senate seat in NY. During interviews, I noticed that she used the phrase "you know" incessantly. Now, here is a woman with a Radcliff BS and studied law at Columbia University. Yet she spoke like a kid!
Probably no one had the nerve to point out this habit.
So, I agree. When an adult is speaking and they say "ya know", "was like", and "hmmmmm" throughout their sentences it undermines their credibility.
I'd love to hear some great speakers on the politcal scene, ones that have that innate talent of speaking honestly, from the heart. First, we have to find an honest politician!
I definitely notice when others (mostly teens) overuse the word "like," but I have not seen much of the usage in writing. I am an English major/former newspaper editor and I am constantly finding errors in writings -- usually unintentionally. I am another person who is guilty of using it from time to time as well though. I am thrilled with seeing your research and I have spent countless hours of watching Scooby Doo growing up... so now I know who to blame for my annoying habit!
Dear Lauren,
Well, I, unfortunately, spent many hours watching The Dobie Gillis Show. It was a generation ago.
In the realm of advertising, it was no error. It was an ad for an invertment firm that was quoting the thoughts of a possible client. I don't recall the exact text, but this is close. "I hate like when my advisor does not return my call."
Ad people do not make mistakes.....well maybe.
I'll keep my eyes and ears open and see if I can cite some actual media.
Thanks JJC



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