We’ve Forgotten How To Speak, But, Like, it Literally Doesn’t Matter, Right?

Being an English major, especially one interested in linguistics, scrolling through my news feed constantly makes me cringe as it becomes apparent to me that we’ve forgotten how to communicate like we once did. Gone are the days of lacing together beautiful sentences, harnessing an intelligent vocabulary, and producing an articulate phrase or opinion. Today, everyone pieces together fragments, uses slang, and overuses filler words to no end.


I have a great respect for the English language. It may not be very beautiful compared to other languages, but it is to be admired in its own way. It’s a very absorbent language, comprised of many linguistic origins, and is one of the most difficult languages to learn. I love studying it. It seems to me, however, that we keep finding new ways to use it less.


I know I use some short forms while texting, like the usual “idk”, “btw”, “brb”. But other than that, I try to use proper English. The short forms and slang we use really aren’t that much quicker and they sound ridiculous. One of the biggest, cringiest issues is the ‘like’ epidemic.


An interesting study done by Canadian English-language expert Sara Tagliamonte elaborates more on this subject. “There’s a veritable revolution going on,” she explains. “The people who are in their 70s and 80s don’t sound anything like adolescents. I mean, they can still understand each other, but there’s a real generation gap.” She notes that one major difference is ‘like’ versus ‘he says, she says’ as quotatives, the way we relate what other people have said. “If you listen to your grandmother tell stories, she’ll do something like this: ‘And he said, “Blah-blah-blah.” Then she said, “Blah-blah.” And I thought to myself, “Blah-blah.”’ That’s how an older person tells a story” (Zerbisias 2013). It makes the story less monotonous by changing up the quotative.


Not only do we use ‘like’ as a quotative, but we also drastically overuse the word. I believe the largest reason for overusing it is that we afraid to leave a silence. Rather than just pause to collect our thoughts we feel the need to fill this silence with “like” and “um” while we think. Just try pausing!  We consistently use it as a filler, rather than for its intended purpose. Like is a word to show comparison, admiration among a few other things: “ This is like that”, or “I like dogs”. I cringe everytime I hear it out of place. Not only does it sound terrible, but it also diminishes any importance the statement was supposed to have. For example, compare these two statements: “I like, think that we should like, learn to speak, better, so that we don’t like, sound ridiculous”, and “I think we should learn to speak better, so that we don’t sound ridiculous.” Which one has a greater effect?


Another word that gets overused a lot is ‘literally’. This word should be reserved for actual, literal things only. Not to hyperbolise something that didn’t actually happen.


This may not register as that big of an issue. So what if we can’t communicate properly? We live in a digital age anyway. Well, it’s actually a bigger issue than you might think. As stated on careertipster.com, “Employers who participated in the Job Outlook 2011 NACE survey indicated communication as the number one skill sought after when hiring new college grads, yet it tends to be the skill most severely lacking for this generation. Anyone who is a career professional will tell you that they have consistently made this observation as they see it in the cover letters and resumes they review, the interview training they conduct, and in the email communications with Millennials that often look more like drunken text messages” (Career Tipster). The way you speak may be what stands between you and a career.


I’m not saying we need to bring Shakespeare rhetoric back into circulation, but I think we all need to make a bigger effort to speak eloquently. We’ve gotten lazy, and I believe the stem of the problem is that people are too scared to be confident in their opinions. I urge everyone to declare what their saying, rather than filling every third word with ‘like’; broaden their vocabulary; and try hard to communicate as we once did. Let’s make our generation articulate again.

If interested, Taylor Mali has a fantastic poem about this topic: https://taylormali.com/poems/totally-like-whatever-you-know/



Zerbisias, Antonia. “Like Whatever, Eh? U of T Prof Tracks Evolution of Canadian English

across Generations.” Thestar.com, Toronto Star, 7 Mar. 2013,



“The Most Aggressively Inarticulate Generation Since, You Know...A Long Time Ago.” Career

Tipster - Career Development & Education,