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I get like so irritated by like when preachers like talk like they like, you know, are one of the like girls. One like outstanding like preacher guy in the midwest is like one of the major users of this word. It like frustrates me to death. It like insinuates into his otherwise serious sermons a like looseness or something. Steve Allen (who is definitely not like a Christian) expresses my own like exasperation. Here’s an excerpt:


I recently met a young woman — bright enough, personable — who was apparently so habituated to the utterly unnecessary use of the word like that she appeared almost unable to complete a sentence without using it at least once. She spoke as follows:

‘Well, like, I mean, uh, I sometimes ride like the bus, you know? And like it freaks me out because like every other person, uh, uh, on the bus is, uh, like crazy, uh, or whatever. Like it freaks me out just because I think like, wow, are these people really like crazy or what? Like I think they may be carrying a knife and be like really dangerous, you know? Like I mean what kind of a way is that to live? Like it’s the worst.’

Although there is some amusement — involving the laughter of superiority, I suppose — in contemplating such language-mangling, there is a tragically serious aspect to the matter. Apparently it has never occurred to the young woman that her speaking mannerisms alone will make it almost impossible for her to secure certain kinds of employment. Many corporations, or even relatively small businesses, simply will not hire individuals who speak in the Valley Girl teenage goofola manner. This particular use of the word like, of course, comes form jazz-musicians’ lingo of the 1930s and 1940s and reached the present young generation by being incorporated into the hippie culture of the 1960s. But I’ve never met a jazz musician that overused the word in the way that many of today’s young people do. There was a legitimate use of the word at its point of origin; employed sparingly it adds a certain loose color and interest to conversation. But this is to be sharply distinguished from the apparently compulsive and mindless degree to which the word is now employed. If you were an officer of a bank or a real estate agent, would you hire someone who would address a potential customer by saying: ‘Like, wow, you wanna take out a loan at this like bank? Like, hey, that’s neat. I’ll go see if Mr. Simpkins can like come out and like talk to you about that, okay?’

11 Responses

  1. After reading this, instant flashbacks came to mind. There was a time (Every once in a while I still catch myself) I used the word, like too often. My dad came to me and said, “What is the point of the word like?” He gave me a definition. He said the way I was using it was incorrect and annoying. It was such a habit that every time I used the word like my dad would stop me. A conversation took a long time because I was repeatly getting stopped for using the word like. I will admit that it helped me and it broke the habit of using the word like so often.

  2. Obviously our character in Christ is more important than how we speak. However, how we speak is a strong factor in how people see/hear our character in Christ.

    For a completely secular demonstration of how one’s speach can change everythig about them one should watch “My Fair Lady”

    How we speak is “like, way important dude!”

  3. In addition to matters of speech, I read somewhere recently that one’s hand gestures affect one’s credibility before others. Apparently, some gesticulation is a good thing, because it engages your conversee; however, one is seen as ‘intelligent, interested and credible’ when hand gestures are contained within an imaginary 2’x2′ box in front of the torso. Who knew? Anyway, I didn’t think much of it or worry about my own gesticulations until just this past Friday evening, when I was riding the subway into Boston with a fellow church member. In regaling her with some rediculous story about the previous week, I quite literaly threw in an exaggerated hand gesture up over my head and to my right for dramatic effect. Unfortunately I was sitting in a rear-facing seat, and didn’t see the oncoming passenger passing me on the right. I frankly whacked said passenger in the face. I apologized profusely, of course, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t like me–or think me, like, particularly intelligent or credible…;o)

  4. Well, this goes to the comment about hand gestures and how it affects ones credibility.I know a lot of intepeters and deaf or hard of hearing people, including myself, who often use non sign language gestures. Meaning, we use sign language quite often that we just tend to use our hands more when talking to someone. So when I talk I am not signing but I do use my hands a lot. I don’t think people would think less of me. I would sure hope not.

  5. Well, as I mentioned before the article said gesticulation was a GOOD thing–but, like everything else, with some constraint; aka, preferably used in ways NOT prone to putting out someone’s eye. I’m a fan of good gesticulation, Barb; I meant to give everyone a good laugh at MY expense with my last post :o)

  6. From a preacher’s point of view, all of the above comments are good. I think that a preacher or a professor (Fleener is a prof) needs to be accessible without demeaning their audience. This is probably a delicate balance.

    I know that when I first came back to the states I was consistently using a vocabulary that was beyond the average use of my audience. More comments were being made about my vocabulary than I cared about because, while my goal was precision in communication, my vocabulary was actually distractive. I deliberately pared down.

    Hand gesticulating, vocabulary, and even the occasional descent into Valley Girl/Jazz lingo are all legitimate tools. Overkill in any of them tends to capture more focus than the actual message.

  7. “(Fleener is a prof)”

    That is scary! I am not even sure what I am??

  8. “I am not even sure what I am??”

    Well, Joe, I’d label you (and you lovely wife and children) as ‘God’s servants on their way to Boston’, or something along those lines. I’ll try not to hijack this post and just leave this at, “Hi, Joe! The IBCB is praying for you guys and looking forward to seeing how the Lord works out the details.”


  9. Thank you Jen. Everyone’s prayers are much appreciated!

    Our desire is to be in Boston, there are many details to work out, but our Great God is at work!

  10. Well, Fleener, to me you’re like some kind of prof, dude!

  11. Bob,

    I’m again coming into the discussion after it has ended, but I actually want to mention something a little different.

    To me, one of the most distracting things a preacher of the word can do in his speech is yell for no particular reason. Increased volume in speech is very effective for emphasizing important points or getting peoples attention. But I have heard so many preachers who make the mistake of yelling through their entire sermon. The emphasis and attention gaining value is lost because the whole thing was yelled, and it usually seems like the preacher is angry rather than serious about God’s word–even if the actual words he said were excellent.

    A slightly different poor use of increased volume happens when preachers (usually ones whose personality does not naturally lend itself to yelling at all) randomly yell with no apparent point of emphasis intended. These sermons don’t usually come across as angry, but the apparently random yelling reduces credibility and makes it more difficult for the hearers to take what is said seriously.

    I hope I’m not guilty of these mistakes. They are difficult for a preacher to become aware of because he doesn’t normally listen to himself. His hearers are generally reticent about it because they don’t want to be overly critical or hurt his feelings.

    I suppose the preacher’s wife is his best source of information on this. God bless preacher’s wives.

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