Remember the kids who used to pepper their conversations with
"uh"? Or the next generation, which started generously sprinkling in
"you know"? Canadians have their own seasoning, which they liberally
apply to the end of sentences. An "eh" here and there is a dead
Parents' 'Ums' and ‘Uhs’ help kids learn
Now the rage among the 11-to-30 year-old-set is "like". When added
to an ample pinch of "omigawd", "totally", and
"whatever", what you end up with is a tasteless stew of words. Many
of us find ourselves counting the number of times "like" is used in a
single sentence, instead of understanding what the conversation was supposed to
be all about.
Interjections such as "uh", "you know", and
"like" are used to allow the speaker's mouth to catch up with his or
her brain, or to make sure the listener has a chance to at least try to attempt
to get the meaning of what is being said.
People tend to use "like" more when they are relating something
which is of particular interest to them, when the words just seem to want to
tumble out. Most people are so inured to such a manner of speaking that they do
not even realise how often they are using these interjections.
Clueless and uneducated
The problem is that this type of speech will brand the speaker as an airhead
or clueless and uneducated. If you speak this way, people just won't take you
seriously. This becomes especially important in job interviews when our verbal
skills are being judged for a myriad of bottom-line-based reasons.
Remember that we communicate in three ways: what we say, how we say it, and
what we look like as we speak. You may have fascinating anecdotes to relate as
you sit in an interview. Yet, if all the "likes" you spew forth
outnumber all the other words – or even come close to it – you are in trouble.
What can a person do to expunge such poor parts of speech from their
personal usage? Do note that it takes approximately three weeks to create a
habit – and even longer for behaviour to become automatic.
For one thing, try tape recording yourself. Just turn on the recorder and
forget about it as you go about your activities. Play it back at day's end. You
will be surprised how much you are abusing this four-lettered word.
best friends, trusted colleagues or significant others to correct you every
time you use the dreaded word. And do not get angry with them when they stop
you short every sentence or two. In the long run, they are doing you a favour.
Try consciously slowing down your talking speed. Wear a rubber band on your
wrist and snap it every time you catch yourself using the unwanted word again.
Your wrist will be pretty sore at first, but, as William Wordsworth said:
"Man must suffer to be wise."
While you are at it, get rid of the equally ignorant-sounding
"totally" and "whatever". And, omigawd, persuade everyone
you know to do the same, before it is, like, too late!
(Mary M. Mitchell has written several books on the subject of etiquette, now
in 11 languages, most recently The Complete Idiot's Guide to Modern
Manners Fast Track and Woofs to the Wise. She is the founder
of executive training consultancy The Mitchell Organization
(www.themitchellorganization.com). The opinions expressed are her own.)
(Picture: Speaking young man from Shutterstock)