In All Likelihood

| February 6, 2013 | 1 Comment

Whenever you think about blinking, it becomes a conscious task henceforward. The same thing goes for breathing. It’s as if once you consider each breath individually, you forget how to breathe and nearly suffocate. And once you notice your roommate noisily slurping ramen, each subsequent slurp tears deeper and deeper into the cotton fabric of your soul.

But eventually, you learn to blink or to breathe without hesitation, to ignore your roommate or get a new one. Have you ever kept track, though, of how often you interject “like” into your daily speech, and how often it’s uttered by those around you?


Although I am still breathing (barely), and no longer blink but spasm haphazardly, my mental health has crashed in a brutal attempt to weed “like” out of my vocabulary.

What is the sound of, like, one hand clapping?

Got me like, ooh my gosh I’m so in love

Got me like, ooh my gosh I’m so in love

First, why has “like” replaced “um” as our filler word of choice? Where does it come from? Linguist Anatoly Liberman points to “belike,” an extinct, English adverb that means “in all likelihood” or “perhaps.” But could it be that our usage of “like” has become so subconscious that it has no meaning? In addition to its role as a grammatical filler, “like” can appear as a hedge, which renders a statement less absolute, “I threw the ball, like, 50 feet,” and it can serve as a quotative, “And she was like, ‘No way!’” (For more examples of “like” as a quotative, see Usher’s “OMG”).

Once made aware of how often my like-monger of a tongue, like a catapult, would let fly a hailstorm of like-bombs between every other word, I had to quit, like, cold turkey.

And I did. I admitted that I have, like, a “like” problem. In the end, through mental detoxification, I not such much removed the word-that-shall-not-be-named from my vocabulary, but learned to avoid saying it (and developed a handsome stutter in the meantime).

It’s better to have loved and lost than to have, like, never loved at all…

What Dick Cheney doesn’t want you to know is that counting the number of “likes” in a college classroom is the most effective form of enhanced interrogation. Though I thought purging myself would be enough, I was wrong. More than ever, I could not help but notice every like-bomb dropped within a ten-mile radius. It drove me past the brink of insanity, and at what cost?

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to, like, suffer…

The truth is, is that my period of likelessness lasted only, like, one week. But in all honesty, what’s wrong with saying “like?” It’s no different than “um” or “you know,” and just because you don’t say “like” doesn’t mean you’re better than those who do. That being said, like-levels have been through the roof as of late. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s to slow down, to stop and think before speaking (and to speak with conviction).

But alas, I am forever doomed to walk this earth and count the “likes” of human souls. That is, until I find something else to obsess over.

Sam, seriously, stop slurping your noodles. I’m trying to, like, write a blog post…





Category: featured, Philosophy and Religion

Jeff Marks

About the Author ()

Jeff Marks (COM '15) is from Scotch Plains, New Jersey. He studies film and television. "I have an older sister and a fast metabolism." He ran track in middle school.

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