#ENGTALK: ‘LIKE’ AND ‘LITERALLY’, TWO OF THE MOST OVERUSED WORDS

“I feel like my whole body is aching. Like, it’s literally painful from head to toe. I’m literally dying right now. Like, I don’t even know how to like describe it.”

How do you feel about the previous passage, fellas?

I personally found it tiring, because we used so many ‘likes’ and ‘literally.’ Both words are what we call fad or trendy words and they still reign supreme until today. In fact, we might have been overusing them for maybe more than a decade.

Usually, a word became trendy or overused when there is a major event that introduced it, such as the Coronavirus pandemic. With such a worldwide impact, it’s a given that the words related to the pandemic are used a lot. ‘Lockdown,’ ‘social distancing,’ and ‘quarantine’ are amongst them. In Indonesia, we have ‘new normal’ and ‘health protocols.’

When the event is finished and the trend dies down, the initially overused words will also be used less. So, what is it about ‘like’ and ‘literally’ that we love using them so much?

Let’s start with ‘like.’ I observed that most people use it as a filler because they haven’t found the next word. It’s similar to ‘umm,’ ‘err,’ or ‘you know.’

How do we avoid using it? First, we should recognise that we are using it a lot.

I noticed that I used ‘like’ a lot when I was on online meetings. As I was not able to face my colleagues or show any hand movement to them, I felt as if I need to speak constantly to show that I was still active in the meeting. Since then, I’ve learned how to pause and arrange my thoughts before saying what I have to say. This could be done by writing down what I am going to say before the meeting starts. Not only will I make the meeting more effective, I can also deliver a clear message.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Now, we move on to the second word, ‘literally.’ I think it’s becoming more and more unclear to us as to when we should use this word. For example, we might say, “I’m literally going to explode,” whilst we are nowhere near the possibility of an explosion. The reason we use ‘literally’ a lot is that because we are trying to find an intensifier or trying to exaggerate what we are saying but we are not sure of which word to use.

‘Literally’ is then often used alongside words with figurative meaning (Indonesian: makna kiasan), whereas it should be used to describe a literal state of something or someone.

Why do we need to be cautious with these words? Too many filler words or intensifiers will somehow weaken our points and bring about a difficulty to send our message across, especially in a professional environment.

Source:
https://mashable.com/2015/04/04/stop-saying-like/
https://www.forbes.com/sites/robasghar/2013/11/06/9-words-youre-literally-beating-to-death/?sh=5b00dff718ef

Compiled by @alicesaraswati for @EnglishTips4U on Thursday, 17 December 2020.

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