JOHN LOCKE AND THE USE OF “LIKE” TO REFLECT SURMISE OR APPROXIMATION. The use that Swaim identifies of “like” to reflect surmise or approximation is consistent with other characteristics of the English language. I posted here about how John Locke concluded that since our knowledge was limited, it was important to specify in our speech our “degrees of assent from full assurance and confidence, quite down to conjecture, doubt and distrust.” And I posted here about how the linguist Anna Wierzbicka showed how the English language responded to Locke’s call for specifying our “degrees of assent” to a statement. She found in English “a proliferation of various linguistic tools for qualifying one’s statements, for hedging one’s assertions, and for differentiating the strength of one’s assent to a proposition.”
The use of “like” is often criticized for showing weakness or uncertainty. However, speakers of English express uncertainty in many ways, and “like” is one of them.