This post first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 10, 2008 - What is going on with "like-and-you-know-itis"?
In recent years, an enormous percentage of our populace has begun sprinkling each spoken sentence with several "likes" and "you know's." For example: "Like, my name, like, you know, is, like, Mike, you know?"
Do I stand alone in expressing concern? I am privileged to know several intelligent citizens. But when these intelligent citizens drop "like's" and you know's" into their speech they sound, well, less intelligent than they really are.
So, I have an idea. By approaching the problem as a community project we may be able to leapfrog our fair town into the forefront of great cities.
Come on, St. Louis - let's declare war on like-and-you-know-itis.
I ask Mayor Slay, County Executive Dooley, business leaders, union bosses, captains of the educational establishment, that is, everyone important, to go forth and shout it from the rooftops: "STOP SAYING "LIKE" AND "YOU KNOW" ALL THE TIME!
Soon everyone will be working together.
If an offender recognizes that he or she has inadvertently dropped a "like" or "you know" into a sentence, he or she will pause for just a moment and say, "please excuse the 'like'," or "please excuse the 'you know'." Those around will smile approvingly.
Alternatively, and this is for the tough cases, if a good hearted friend should hear a buddy sound like, ahem, "less intelligent that he really is" by saying "like" and "you know" every few words, the good-hearted friend will begin to count the offenses on his fingers, all in plain view of the offender (and in plain view of any others in attendance). Offenders might be offended by this finger counting, but how else can we solve the problem?
My theory is that in a few short weeks, if we all make a Herculean effort, we can clean it up. Imagine the opportunities this will create for our city. Every time one of our citizens travels to another city he or she will sound more intelligent than everyone else there. Perhaps our traveling citizens will run across rich people in faraway lands, and those rich people will own companies, and those rich company owners will move their businesses here to take advantage of our quick-witted work force.
Similarly, when people from another city comes to St. Louis, they will be so impressed with our new, suave speech patterns that they will decide to stay and we will all receive the benefit of their productivity.
I am, of course, particularly concerned about the youngsters. The problem is not limited to the young, but the young seem to be among the worst offenders.
Here is an idea for our schools. The head of each school should divide the school into a handful of teams, with each team having students and teachers as members. Then the teams can have weekly contests in which each use of "like" or "you know" costs the team a point. At the end of each week, the winning team receives a small reward such as leaving 10 minutes early, getting seconds at lunch or something else desired by all. Making the teachers' speech count will ensure buy-in from the youngsters.
So, let's try it. A small step for a city but a giant leap in the protection of the thin veneer of civilization.
Bevis Schock is an attorney in private practice in Clayton.