CHANGING MY MIND ABOUT USING “LIKE”. Barton Swaim had an op ed in the Wall Street Journal (April 20) which argued that some uses of “like” are useful and acceptable. Since I became a descriptivist grammarian, I of course have to presume that any use of a word which occurs frequently should be considered correct. Swaim gives examples of where “like” is useful. It “alerts the hearer or reader to imprecision. It announces surmise or approximation.” He gives as an example of correct usage: “Like six million people live in Washington.”

Swaim also considers the following to be correct: “There’s, like, an adolescent arrogance about his attitude”. Swaim treats the word as a signal that the speaker doesn’t feel that the term “adolescent arrogance” is exact.

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