So what’s, like, new in the words we like to use

Oct 08, 2023
Source: Getty Images.

I have stumbled upon a way to silence the great majority of young women today. Simply remove the word “like” from their vocabulary and all conversations will cease.

Every generation has it’s favoured words or phrases but for the over 60s, we who were weaned on the dialogue of the 1960s, it’s a little difficult trying to make sense of a conversation with many of today’s younger people. Young women in particular seem to have universally adopted one favoured word to sprinkle through every conversation.

I was sitting at a table near a 20-something who was conducting a very animated conversation on her mobile phone, it was impossible to tune out and so inevitably like it or not I I heard every word and after a while, it occurred to me that every second word this young lady uttered was the word “like”.

“So I said to her, like, what are we going to do this weekend like, and she replied like, but she had no idea and I said like, well let’s make some plans”. It was that sort of conversation. The word ‘like’ was used more times than any other word in that conversation yet it contributed nothing to the point of the discussion, it was almost as if they were speaking in code.

Now as an over 60, we can’t really criticise young people’s vocabularies considering some of the words and phrases that we employed in our younger years. Remember the era when something really good was Fab or Gear? Or in the 1950s when cool people were called Cats? Can you dig it? It’s as if we invented a new language using words that our parents’ generation would never understand. It would seem the same trend continues today.

So each generation it seems bequeaths its own unique words for the future generations and in the 21st century it would appear the word “like” has achieved compulsory use status. The question on my mind is why is the word “like” so popular?

As an oldie, I will admit to being baffled at the same level of confusion that I feel when I see young people endlessly photographing their meals at restaurants to upload to social media sites. Maybe just to confuse today’s young folk it might be time for us over 60s to revive some of the slang words that got us through the 1960s. Think of the conversations we could have with one another.

“I have a groovy idea that’s far out and I hope you dig it. I mean this one is a gas though some cats may find it a bummer”. Makes perfect sense, yes?

A generation that has no idea how a rotary telephone works will have no idea what we’re talking about and so we, at an advanced age, can communicate with one another in code. Young people will declare this a drag and resort to their current put-down phrase to dismiss us.

“OK Boomer” is apparently a popular term now for young people to blame the over 60s for all of society’s issues from the high cost of rental housing to the exorbitant prices charged for smashed avo on toast.

We who were raised in an era when you could drive without a seat belt or ride a bike without a safety helmet, termed our own word “snowflake” as an automatic description of those who dare to criticise us.

Every decade seems to throw up new buzzwords. In the early 1990s, I recall having to learn what the term “cowabunga dude” meant when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dominated the era and you had to learn their language to survive.

Now in 2023, we have the phenomenon of the word “like” sprinkled through conversations like salt
and pepper on a meal. I can’t wait to see what next year’s favourite words will be. Somehow I think “like” will still be one of them. I’m cool with that.

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