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Carmen Burcea-Haber Headshot

Moving to, Like, America

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I was living these past years in Prague. Given that the "golden city" is a magnet for tourism, one starts to notice national trends among the visiting crowds - they become surprisingly predictable: Italians, who come in droves at two times of year, Christmas and Easter, fill the center with their loud, jolly cries and songs; the Brits and Irish, coming for alcoholic stag weekends, get seriously drunk and fight; the Germans usually march in massive, quiet groups, following an umbrella held high in the air by their guide; the French seem generally quite refined and the Russians quite coarse.

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American visitors are usually young people who make their way through town involved in loud conversations dominated by the word "like." Or at least that's how it seemed to me. Very often the girls have nasally, shrill voices and sound - no matter where they are from - like quintessential Valley girls.

I noticed in these last years an exponential use of the preposition "like" that by now largely supplants the use of a comma, or surpasses the use of the ever-popular "awesome," "totally," "kinda,'" "for sure," and even the dramatic "oh my God" youngsters are so fond of, that I started to fear that, oh my God, I myself might eventually, like, catch this bug.

I recently moved back to the States and I think I'm doomed.

A few days ago I was having lunch at an outdoor café. Two young, pretty women took the next table. They were "liking" their way through a conversation about the books they were reading (I was amazed they were speaking about books, so I snooped) and I decided to count how many l-words they used in one minute. The result was 29 "likes" in 60 seconds. This means they dropped a "like" every two seconds! In subsequent days I kept my ears open, at the shops, on the streets, everywhere, and I heard "like" come out of the mouths of everyone, even my husband who just got here with me!

It's as if some aliens have taken over the English language in America: a kinda' Stepford Wives syndrome of language, where everyone turns into, like a Valley girl!

I don't know what it is, but it's kinda as if the "likes" stick to your tongue like honey to a bee, and it takes enormous effort to avoid using them, especially when one finds oneself besieged from, like, all sides.

I might save myself, like because English is not my native language, I hope I am kinda' like less susceptible, but I can't fail kinda' noticing the devastating effect this trend has on like even the most cultured people. I can't like scream "Stop it!" I have to kinda' keep a straight face and kinda' pretend I take them, like, seriously. It's hard to get the meaning of what's being, like, said, and it makes you kinda' feel that if you don't use your own "likes" they might not, like, understand you.

I can just, like, picture the great American authors turning in their, like, graves.

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Anyway, since the situation is so totally like out of control, kind of, I've decided I totally have to stop being so, like, worried about it. Oh my God, that's actually, like, a totally awesome idea.