Stop speech policing! Young people can say "like" if we want to

Stop speech policing! Young people can say "like" if we want to

In the age of social media, adults don’t realise that criticising young people for their speech patterns knocks their sense of self worth

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Just because teenage girls overuse the word ‘like’ doesn’t mean their arguments are less worthy, or that they’re any less intelligent than their older counterparts.
Junior Reporter
A 17 year old with old-people interests, Lee enjoys writing, films, alternative music, LGBTQ stuff, and apparently, writing in third person.

Watching a person over 30 listen to a group of teenage girls converse is an interesting thing - their heads spin around after the fifth use of the word ‘like’, and upon ‘oh my God’ their eyes will roll to the back of their skulls. If you’re lucky, they’ll even foam at the mouth, saying things like, "you’re butchering the English language!" Their opinions blooming like very bitter flowers growing from a bed of entitlement.

Maybe I’m exaggerating, but it’s true that older generations have notoriously strong feelings about youth culture. Twelve-year-olds taking selfies are compared to worldwide pandemics, boybands are the devil. Maybe I’m not the only one blowing things out of proportion.

These heightened reactions have been steadily gaining traction, and ever since the Oxford Dictionary began to feature slang terms like ‘YOLO’, everyone from well-meaning teachers to scathing critics in the media have been voicing their dissent.

Now the ball is in my court, and I, as a young woman, am hitting back.


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Let’s put this into perspective. Growing up has all been about expressing yourself and your personality. The youth of today have available to them a variety of ways to expresses themselves thanks to the internet and social media. It becomes all they know, and as their lives and personalities evolve online, this is then reflected in their daily lives. As a result, internet slang is used in abundance. Much to the dismay of adults who instinctively decide there is a direct relationship between one’s stupidity and how many times they use ‘like’ in a sentence.

I think what's neglected is the damaging effect this ‘speech-policing’ has on young girls. Historically, society has actively encouraged women to be subservient, complacent and submissive, and it is naive to believe that this has completely dissipated. Thus, when a young woman’s extensive use of a particular phrase or filler-word is suddenly synonymous with stupidity, and her value and perspective is rendered invalid because of it, one must realise that this attitude is only reinforcing what has likely been inferred to her at birth. And to realise that it's potentially creating another generation of silent, demure women in place of one that should be groundbreaking.

I myself have been guilty of this judgment. Maybe because I was afraid of being labelled the ‘vapid teenage girl’, I made it my mission to learn the most unnecessary and superfluous vocabulary in existence, bury the word ‘like’ deep into the ground and spit on its grave. 

Looking back on this decision, I can’t blame the ‘vapid teenage girls’ I was afraid of becoming; I can only blame what made me feel the need to do this in the first place. I felt, as a young woman, I had to somehow prove I am intelligent. I felt the need to work harder and convince people that what I thought and felt had merit and meaning. But I shouldn’t have to do that. My opinions shouldn’t be invalidated by my speech tendencies, the same way it isn't invalidated just by my gender. We should be past that.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Stop speech policing: I can say like if I want to

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4 Comments

Hermes Mercurio

03:28am

The first paragraph PERFECTLY describes my reactions every time I have the misfortune of being near some students (and it happens a lot, unfortunately!). Putting an end to your habit of saying "like" in every sentence was the best thing you could do, and I wish more people followed your example. And don't worry, all your concerns about the role of girls in our society are just feminist bullshit that is clouding your judgment. The truth is that boys say "like" as much as girls. But since girls have a high-pitch voice, it's more noticeable when they do it. So, embrace and enjoy your like-free existence, and spread the word! People can stop saying the most annoying word ever conceived every single time they open their mouth. We just have to encourage them.