Like, People Don’t Hear the Smart; They Totally Only Hear the Loud

I have always found that when words like “Intellectual,” “Academic and “Smart” are thrown around there are times when many assume they mean the same thing. To clarify, they do not, and it is due to this that I have always fancied myself an intellectual, though rarely have I ever claimed myself to be truly “Smart.” The problem I have with the word is that it really does not encapsulate a fair description of anything and therefore it is far too vague to have any real use. In schools, for example, a smart student can mean anyone from an individual who excels in all of their subjects, to one who is fairly adept at only one subject, to a person who is capable of juggling various subjects and an additional workload placed on them by extracurricular activities. Outside of the academic world, the term “Smart” can describe a person as being well dressed, or an object pleasing to the eye, to a person who is academically intelligent, or an individual that has paid a good price on car insurance. The fact remains that, despite its desired interpretation, the word “Smart” very rarely has a single possible derivation.

It is this vagueness that Clark Whelton disdains from the onset of his City Journal article attacking the word “Like.” Similar to my dislike of the word “Smart,” Whelton’s dislike of the word “Like” originates from the fact that the word allows a sense of extreme vagueness that undercuts the credibility of the one who uses it. As an example, he uses interviews he conducted during his time as a speechwriter as proof that increased use of the word “Like” had direct correlation with the quality of one’s work, especially in regards to English and the written word. In an indirect counter to his writing, New York Times Language contributor Patrica T. O’Conner claims that the word “Like” has acquired a negative connotation and that despite the opinion it has garnered due to sounding infantile and juvenile, it is more than acceptable in casual conversation. Before I continue, I must mention that both writers refer to the word “Like” in the colloquial Valley Girl sense of the word, where it is used as filler, on an equal level as “Um” and “Uh.” Though, it must be mentioned that in extremely casual conversation, the word “Like” has also begun to replace words and phrases such as “Said,” “Mentioned,” “Thought” and so forth. Suffice it to say, I agree and disagree with both Whelton and O’Conner, though for slightly different reasons.

Personally, I believe that both writers make valid points in their articles; I do agree that the word “Like” is a scourge on the English language. Though, I must admit that I too believe that it is only acceptable to use the word during more casual moments; the word “Like,” in my opinion, is similar to the font “Comic Sans MT” in that it is only acceptable during the most casual of moments and under no circumstance should it be used in a professional setting.  I also believe that both writers have missed a slightly more stunning detail regarding the word and its possible indications on humanity: We live in a world where the intellectual and wise are ignored for the loud and verbose. The word “Like” isn’t used because people are getting dumber or because we, as a species, are beginning to favour a more casual affair with our words. No, the word “Like” is being used because everyone else uses it in a very loud way. In short, the word “Like” represents everything that is wrong in this world; it is the ultimate gateway drug that allows its users to enter various states of casual ignorance where a topic is not learned or fully understood because “No one else does it.” This is the main problem with the society we live in; it is perfectly acceptable not to know something so long as a large majority can support an individual in their ignorance.

Interestingly enough, however, despite what it leads to, the word “Like” is not the only one of its kind, as various other words and phrases have changed in meaning over the annals of time; curse words and terms with derogatory meaning are usually the first to experience such a major change. The fact of the matter is that those who disdain the word have no need to fear it indefinitely as soon its original meaning will once again be its only meaning. What we as a society have to fear is the fact that within the next few years, a new word will be added to the repository and new articles will be penned by more writers who will also miss the aforementioned detail. The fact of the matter is that we don’t have to worry about the word “Like” or any word, because it, and they, will be gone from our vocabulary or reformatted to mean anything, given enough time; what we truly have to worry about is an almost universal truth: that we, as an intelligent species, will never accept that, unless the educated, intellectual, academics stop writing about words in a language with an ever changing definition, and start making their collective “Smart” voices heard in a loud and verbose way, nothing will change, whether verbally, or socially.

As always, this has been your Admin; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

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