It’s way past time to talk about “like.”
There is the original like, as in “I rather like her hat.”
There is the pre-teen like, as in “I like him, but I don’t, like, like-like him.”
Of course we now have the Official Like, as in “Tamsie “likes” Obama for President.”
And, there’s the like that puts words in quotes, as in “She says they’re like ‘pre-engaged.'”
Today, however, I’m thinking of the other like, the one that is half-way between thinking and speaking.
This “like” gets a lot of bad press as being the pet of silly kids, as in
“So, I was like ‘No way!’ but she was like ‘Way’ and I’m like ‘Holy Cow’ are you like kidding me?” (or words to that effect).
But, just consider this: Jean’s supervisor makes an unreasonable request that she stay late and finish a task that was assigned to someone else and that should not be her responsibility. Jean hides her resentment and stays after hours to finish the project. When Jean gets home, she says:
“I couldn’t believe it. I was just walking out and Mr. Legree asked me to stay late to finish the Smithers project. I was like ‘Really Mr. Smithers? You don’t remember that I wanted that project, but you gave it to Bill instead?’ Like, Bill messed up and why am I supposed to fix it instead of him? It was so wrong. So, I’m like ‘Fine, I’ll stay, but this is seriously messed up.'”
See? The “like” is neither what Jean actually said (“Um, sure, unless you think Bill might want input into finishing this?”) nor fully what she thought (unprintable raw frustration).
I’ve decided, upon no-doubt-too-much reflection, that Like serves a valid purpose of indicating, oh, what you wish you’d said, what you thought of saying later, what your emotions said, even if practical considerations restrained you, and so on.
I think “like” is simply a space filler – akin to “ummmm” – for people either with limited grammatical skills and vocabulary OR who tend to speak before thinking.
Ahh, well … um, you may be right, it’s sometimes just, like, a filler.