"I do not like eggs in the file.
I do not like them in any style."
If there is one word in the English language I have come not to love, it is the word "like."
Indeed, even in my pre-adolescent youth, the "I like Ike" button rubbed me the wrong way. Somehow the "like-Ike" combo didn't sound right.
Today, "like" as a verb/linguistic tic is all over our American language space.
As a verb, on Facebook: You express your opinion by clicking on "like." But what does a "Facebook-like" really mean? When you think about it, such a "like" means nada.
The "like" option in Facebook was, I would say, inspired by Wall-Street PR talk.
When on Tee-Vee so-called financial experts are questioned about a (non-sexual) "position," they say: "I like" (name your company). If asked, do you own any of the stocks you like, they answer no, I do not like any of the stocks I like.
"Like," as suggested above, is not only America's number one verb, it's, like, its most humongous verbal tic in our, like, most, like, likeable land.
Sit, like, on a subway in the imperial capital (Washington, D.C.) without an i-pod in your ears, and, like, your aural space will be, like, invaded by "likes" uttered by cell-phone users of every age. Few are the "like" (lice?)-infested sentences in these conversations that don't begin and end with "like."
Walk on the street in America today (a disappearing activity in our, like, car-addicted country), and overhear teeny-boppers and aged hippies actually talking, like, to one another directly rather than via cell-phones, and the "like"-invasion will be confirmed: "Like" is the salt-and-pepper of their talk, with pubescent girls' acidic voices, like, screeching "like" like chalk on a blackboard, enough to drive you nuts if you're not, like, hard of hearing.
I can't help thinking: Would Humbert Humbert, of Lolita fame, have been infatuated with 12-year-old Dolores Haze had she been like-chattering away on a cell phone?
Will our diplomats, especially those involved in public diplomacy, end up communicating with the world by constantly using "like" and other such vague and disconnected language? Well, maybe they will (after all, they do represent how our country thinks and talks), but as a way significantly to "engage" -- the buzzword of the current administration -- with overseas audiences, their efforts may have, at best, mixed results, even with the use of the latest social media, one of which, Twitter, limits messages to 140 characters (well, like, enough characters for, like, "like," but little else).
But, hey, not to, like, worry. Like, God bless America (and, for Nabokov, Lolita was America) and its, like, non-declining, like, language, which I, like, like (but certainly find hard to love in its current direction).
Follow John Brown on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ivante