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Love it, hate it, but please don’t like it

Opinion Piece

My son has a game called BeanBoozled.

The rules are simple.

You spin a wheel and whatever colour it lands on is the colour of a jelly bean you have to eat.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

There are 10 colours but two flavours for each.

The white jellybean is coconut . . . or spoilt milk. The black is liquorice . . . or skunk spray. Orange with red spots is peach . . . or vomit. White with yellow spots is buttered popcorn . . . or rotten eggs.

There’s dogfood, blueberry, lawn clippings, pear, mouldy cheese and booger.

And take it from my boy and his buddies, the taste similarity to the real thing is unerring — particularly booger, apparently.

BeanBoozled can be played any way you like, and it’s the word “like” that inspired my mutation of the game.

All those who despise fingernails sharper than a Japanese sushi chef’s knife scraping down a blackboard; that large group who feel an icy dagger piercing their spine at the sound of styrofoam; the many who contemplate personally executing a full dental extraction minus anaesthetic when some gimp grinds their teeth.

You of all people will understand my abhorration for the out-of-context use of “like”.

My 22-year-old nephew has been clocked at one “like” every 20 words.

My mate’s 14-year-old American son spits them out with the fire-hose intensity of an irate camel.

And yes, I admit, the odd illegitimate “like” has infiltrated my vocabulary — somehow bypassing a usually heavily-patrolled redundant word security system.

The abuse of the English language in this way is not new.

The popularisation of this usage of “like” is widely believed to have been inspired by Moon Unit Zappa’s 1982 single Valley Girl, about a Southern California socialect known as Valspeak.

Some might also remember the 1980s American sit-com Square Pegs (Sarah Jessica-Parker pre Sex And the City) in which Valspeak is prevalent.

There’s examples of it in Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 cult classic A Clockwork Orange (“I, like, didn’t say anything”); Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel Kidnapped (“What’s like wrong with him?”)’ and even from the Bard himself.

The “like” epidemic falls under what as known as formulaic language (embolalia if you want to show off).

Embolalia is defined as “the interpolation of meaningless words or sounds into speech” — word or phrases thrown around without thinking about them such as err, um, OK, you know, and with growing prevalence nowadays, like.

We all do it. Some a lot more than others.

I hate “like”. So I am doing my bit to rid the world of serial “likers”. Well, in the Whitaker Street town end, anyway.

Incorrect usage of like is banned from my house.

I am not a cruel man. I appreciate it requires weaning off. Likeaholics, like (correct usage) their alcohol or smoking counterparts, need a little leeway.

In my house, you have three chances.

I warn you via the tried and true process of raising one finger for the first offence and two for the second. When you commit the third, punishment is inflicted.

You must spin the BeanBoozled wheel and take your chances.

Hey, you might get lucky. You could get that yummy blueberry, delicious coconut or scrumdiddlyumptious licorice.

But there’s a 50-50 chance you’ll be chewing on snot, skunk fart or stinky socks

This household my-law was passed a month or so ago. Children were the test case.

My nine-year-old son’s mate Sammy is a prolific “like” abuser.

Two fingers were raised daily to him but with discipline he avoided the sentence, and I avoided having to put up with “I was watching TV the other day and, like, there was this really, like, funny programme and I laughed heaps and, like, we should watch it on Netflix.”

Sammy was forced into thinking about what he was saying. To stop himself from “liking” he had to speak deliberately and methodically.

At one stage I heard him sigh and say with white flag resignation: “This is just too difficult.”

Another of my son’s mates, Nikau, took the easy way out. He just didn’t talk.

There was one instance of rebellion. The front doorbell rang, I answered and four children screamed “like, like, like, like, like” like (correct usage) a flock of seagulls and then they ran, they ran so far away.

But they returned and to this day, the my-law remains in place — Like it, and you’ll lump it.

Hot on the heels of my like hate are redundant, unnecessary or overused words, and we all have at lease one of those that induces homicidal feelings.Topping the list are absolutely, virtually, actually, basically and literally.

Use of “absolutely” is endemic.

Beauden Barrett is not a brilliant All Black, according to many rugby commentators. He’s “absolutely” brilliant.

When asked if he had a great day at the Victoria’s Secret lingerie party, Chris replied: “I absolutely did”.

TV media regularly use the term “absolute tragedy”. Tragedy is an event causing great suffering, destruction and distress. What may I ask then, is an “absolute” tragedy?

“Absolute” is like an exclamation mark parked in front of a word rather than behind.

Eg: Donald Trump is an absolute douchebag, rather than Donald Trump is a douchebag.

Perhaps in this case, it’s appropriate.

Chris Taewa