What kept them?

Copthorne Primary school in West Yorkshire, UK, has banned its pupils from using the word “like” as a filler.  In future, those who pepper their sentences with “likes” will be asked to spend five minutes thinking about how they might have expressed themselves better.

The verbal tic is thought to be spreading thanks to shows like Love Island: in 2017, a contestant said “like” 36 times in 90 seconds.

Spreading?   It’s already everywhere.  It’s like (whoops!) “you know”, also a filler and I suppose it is popular because the user hasn’t thought through what he or she intended to say, and is trying to prevent interruption. Leaving aside the United States for a moment (students at Georgetown University can be heard using it every five seconds, walking down the street talking interminably on their phones), I fear that the good old British class divisions will ensure that “like” becomes a class identifier.

Well, it isn’t classy, is it?

(You thought people had stopped talking about class in Britain?  Yes, they have, but it is still there)


  1. The class divide in speech seems to be widening. Upper middle class graduates (myself included) know that speaking ‘properly’ is an asset when it comes to securing the best jobs. Meanwhile, non-graduates don’t want to sound formal or out of place.
    I know this from personal experience. I was mocked at school for ‘speaking posh.’ Certain accents carry stereotypes: Estuary English speakers are normal and relatable, Received Pronunciation speakers like myself are haughty and snobby.
    Judging people based on their accents or using ‘like’ as a filler will only decrease social mobility. Those born into privileged backgrounds have yet another hidden advantage. While I find the excessive use of ‘like’ as a filler a tad annoying, its important to pay attention to what someone is saying, not how they are saying it.

    • I totally agree with you that we should listen to the point that someone is making, not the way they say it. But it is not coincidental that I chose to talk about Einstein the day after mode of speech. Einstein was a free spirit, a rebel in many ways, reacting against received ideas and ploughing his own furrow.
      In a minor way this is a similar issue : I think it really isn’t a matter just of class, the way some people speak; it it a matter of fitting in with others, being one of the pack, not standing out or being regarded as “snooty” etc. Humans are pack animals. As someone who couldn’t care less about fitting in (from a very early age) and happy to work out what I thought without conforming or relying on the good opinion of others, I find it hard to understand why others are devoted to Facebook, chit- chat and so on. If that means I don’t collect hosts of friends and acquaintances then it is my furrow and I am comfortable with it. Vive la difference!

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