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Opinion Editorials

Exploring the evolution of “like” (confession time: I like, like “like”)

(EDITORIAL) The evolution of LIKE: so many ways to use one little word that was once they crowning glory of valley girls across America.

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Etymology 101

The evolution of like: so many ways to use one little word. Let’s get a couple things nailed down before we talk about how we use “like” in speech. Like comes from an Old English word “gelic” meaning “with the body,” as in the original definition of like: similar to. But humans abbreviated the word, as humans are totes wont to do, and it became “lic“, which eventually became like.

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Beyond its initial definitions, like has spawned many strange etymological tentacles in our modern spoken language. Like is the linguistic mother of the suffix “-ly”. As in “quick-ly”, which makes sense if you picture your Texas relatives saying (not incorrectly!) “quick -like” to describe something fast. This, too, eventually became shortened.

It’s also the rakish parent of “likewise,” meaning similar in manner. This lead to the suffix “—wise”, which gives us such gems as clockwise and stepwise without having to include the like.

“Grandma, to get to Furrs you do down 6th to Quaker avenue, turn clock-like-wise and you’ll be there as quick-like as a jackrabbit.”

But as interesting as all that might be (I’m not a nerd, you’re a nerd), it doesn’t explain the overuse of it by modern day youths with their technology and cyberspeak. For that meaning, we have to follow a different thread.

like

Like, a history

One that starts with the 50s with beatniks, who said “like, wow” and brought this monosyllabic utterance into the national consciousness. In novels too, the “like” suffix started being used more liberally. Instead of just “slow-like” we got sentences like, “That’s the right clue and may do me some good. Something very big. Truth, like.” (Sieze the Day, 1965).

Now, it’s become something else. A mark of hesitation, a transition, or if you like fancy and specific turns of phrase: “Like has morphed into a modal marker of the human mind at work in conversation.” — John McWhorter in The Atlantic

He further makes the point that unlike “um” or “uh”, “like” is not a marker of unconfident speech. Not at all. People use like to manage expectations, reinforce ideas, soften blows, or attribute speech in conversations. Confused yet? Here’s a few examples.

Counter-expectation and reinforcement

If I was talking to a friend I might say something along the lines of:

“Hey, so I went out with that guy and we went to a bar and everyone there was like, old. Like, grandparents old. There were like, veterans and little old ladies with knitting needles, and I was like, what is happening right now? But it was fun.”

I am using “like” in this sentence to say, “You might think by old I mean 30 but NO, in fact I mean LIKE old, I mean LIKE grandparents, and LIKE get-out-your-knitting-needles.”

The “like” is acknowledging an imagined objection. I’m saying my listeners part for them. I’m parsing out the conversation we might have — “Everyone there was old – So they are 30? – No, they were LIKE, OLD” — without having to stop in the middle of my anecdote.

Another example might be:

“So I’m checking out at the HEB and it’s, like, him. The guy who who stole my uncle’s inheritance and used it to start a koala sanctuary on the East Side.”

I’m using this “like” to say, essentially, “you’re not going to believe it was him, but it was totally him.”

Water it down

When like is used as a hesitation, as described above, it’s not the same as an “uh” or an “um“. In fact, it’s often used rather specifically to soften something you’re about to say to someone they might take objection to.

Saying, “Those brass knuckles are, like, the only ones that match your ball gown” is not at all the same thing as saying, “Those brass knuckles are, uh, the only ones that match your ball gown.” I am offering a little verbal apology to my intensely-accessoried friend. It’s easier to tell someone a road is “Like the only way to get there” than to tell them a road is “The only way to get there.”

like

As a quotation

Like can also serve as a means of attributing speech without directly quoting someone. An example of this would be, “So then he was like, ‘If you beat me at Scrabble again we are breaking up.’

Here I am using “like” as verbal quotation marks to indicate what my future ex-boyfriend has said in a previous conversation. And this is one usage no one should get mad about.

It’s not cultural or vague or open to interpretation. It’s a correct and legitimate way to quote someone while speaking. But people do not often parse out each of these nuanced likes. They either understand, or they pass judgment across the board.

It’s no longer a “valley girl” tick

Like is no longer a verbal tick of the young. The beatniks and mainstreamers who started using it in the fifties are “like, old” or at least middle-aged now, and are still likely to use like in these ways. But it’s also being carried on as a subtle but important speech pattern in younger generations.

Like it or not, like is like, here to stay.

“Like” evolution print courtesy of Indiegogo.

#Ilikelikelike

Felix is a writer, online-dating consultant, professor, and BBQ enthusiast. She lives in Austin with two warrior-princess-ninja-superheros and some other wild animals. You can read more of her musings, emo poetry, and weird fiction on her website.

Opinion Editorials

DNA tests are cool, but are they worth it?

(OPINION EDITORIAL) DNA tests are all the rage currently but are they worth potentially having your genetic makeup sold and distributed?

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Over the last few years, DNA testing went mainstream. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe have offered easy access to the insights of your genetics, including potential health risks and family heritage, through simple tests.

However, as a famously ageless actor once suggested in a dinosaur movie, don’t focus too much on if you can do this, without asking if you should do this.

When you look closely, you can find several reasons to wonder if sending your DNA to these companies is a wise choice.

These reasons mostly come down to privacy protection, and while most companies do have privacy policies in place, you will find some surprising loopholes in the fine print. For one, most of the big players don’t give you the option to not have your data sold.

These companies, like 23andMe and Ancestry.com, can always sell your data so long as your data is “anonymized,” thanks to the HIPPA Act of 1996. Anonymization involves separating key identifying features about a person from their medical or biological data.

These companies know that loophole well; Ancestry.com, for example, won’t even give customers an opt-out of having their DNA data sold.

Aside from how disconcerting it is that these companies will exploit this loophole for their gain at your expense, it’s also worth noting that standards for anonymizing data don’t work all that well.

In one incident, reportedly, “one MIT scientists was able to ID the people behind five supposedly anonymous genetic samples randomly selected from a public research database. It took him less than a day.”

There’s also the issue of the places where that data goes when it goes out. That report the MIT story comes from noted that 23andMe has sold data to at least 14 outside pharmaceutical firms.

Additionally, Ancestry.com has a formal data-sharing agreement with a biotech firm. That’s not good for you as the consumer, because you may not know how that firm will handle the data.

Some companies give data away to the public databases for free, but as we saw from the earlier example, those can be easy targets if you wanted to reverse engineer the data back to the person.

It would appear the only safe course of action is to have this data destroyed once your results are in. However, according to US federal regulation for laboratory compliance stipulates that US labs hold raw information for a minimum of 10 years before destruction.

Now, consider all that privacy concern in the context of what happens when your DNA data is compromised. For one, this kind of privacy breach is irreversible.

It’s not as simple as resetting all your passwords or freezing your credit.

If hackers don’t get it, the government certainly can; there’s even an instance of authorities successfully obtaining a warrant for DNA evidence from Ancestry.com in a murder trial.

Even if you’re not the criminal type who would worry about such a thing, the precedent is concerning.

Finally, if these companies are already selling data to entities in the biomedical field, how long until medical and life insurance providers get their hands on it?

I’ll be the first to admit that the slippery slope fallacy is strong here, but there are a few troubling patterns of behavior and incorrect assumptions already in play regarding the handling of your DNA evidence.

The best course of action is to take extra precaution.

Read the fine print carefully, especially what’s in between the lines. As less scrupulous companies look to cash in on the trend, be aware of entities who skimp on privacy details; DNA Explained chronicles a lot of questionable experiences with other testing companies.

Above all, really think about what you’re comfortable with before you send in those cheek swabs or tubes of spit. While the commercials make this look fun, it is a serious choice and should be treated like one.

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Opinion Editorials

How to deal with an abusive boss and keep your job, too

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Sometimes bosses can be the absolute worst, but also, you depend on them. Here’s how to deal with an abusive boss and, hopefully, not get fired.

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Nothing can ruin your work life like an abusive boss or supervisor. But when you’re dependent on your boss for assignments, promotions – heck, your paycheck – how can you respond to supervisor abuse in a way that doesn’t jeopardize your job or invite retaliation?

A new study to be published in the next Academy of Management Journal suggests an intriguing approach to responding to an abusive boss. As you might expect, their study shows that avoiding the abuser does little to change the dynamic.

But the study also found that confronting the abuser was equally ineffective.

Instead, the study suggests that workers in an abusive situation “flip the script” on their bosses, “shifting the balance of power.” But how?

The researchers tracked the relationship between “leader-follower dyads” at a real estate agency and a commercial bank. They found that, without any intervention, abuse tended to persist over time.

However, they also discovered two worker-initiated strategies that “can strategically influence supervisors to stop abuse and even motivate them to mend strained relationships.”

The first strategy is to make your boss more dependent on you. For example, one worker in the study found out that his boss wanted to develop a new analytic procedure.

The worker became an expert on the subject and also educated his fellow co-workers. When the boss realized how important the worker was to the new project, the abuse subsided.

In other words, find out what your boss’s goals are, and then make yourself indispensable.

In the second strategy, workers who were being abused formed coalitions with one another, or with other workers that had better relationships with the boss. The study found that “abusive behavior against isolated targets tends to stop once the supervisor realizes it can trigger opposition from an entire coalition.”

Workplace abuse is not cool, and it shouldn’t really be up to the worker to correct it. At times, the company will need to intervene to curb bad supervisor behavior. However, this study does suggest a few strategies that abused workers can use to try to the tip the balance in their favor.

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Opinion Editorials

Avoid the stack, conquer busy work as it comes

(PRODUCTIVITY) It’s easy overwhelmed with emails and a stack of real mail. But tackling as it comes may help to enhance organization and productivity.

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A few weeks ago, I was walking through my office (also known as my bedroom after 5 p.m.) and I noticed a stack of mail that I had tossed aside over the course of the last few months. While they were non-urgent, this collection of paperwork had been opened, read, and left unattended.

Now, this was a classic move of mine – leave a mess for Future Taylor to clean up. So, imagine my surprise when Present Taylor woke up and decided to put an end to “the stack.”

I sat down, went through everything, and took care of what needed to be done. Even though my wallet took a few hits, it felt great to have this cleared up and off my desk.

Right then and there, I made it a rule to let things only cross my desk once (unless there’s some extenuating circumstance in which it requires me to come back to it; i.e. my favorite sentence on this paperwork “This is not a final bill.”) There’s no point in drawing out the stress that “the stack” induce.

This led me to finally attacking something that’s been on my to-do list since I created my Gmail account in 2009 – create an organizational system.

I set aside some time to create folders (for individual projects, people I communicate with frequently, etc.)

While this is all stuff that you may have already implemented, my point is that this increase my productivity and lifted a weight off of my shoulders I didn’t acknowledge was there.

So, I encourage you to find one of those menial tasks that has been on your to-do list forever and tackle it.

This can include, organizing all of your electronic files into folders, updating your phone and email contacts, or going through all of your desk drawers to get rid of unneeded items. Organizing and freshening up your workspace can help increase your focus.

Once you’re organized and in gear, try the “let it cross your desk once” method. When an email comes in, respond to it or file it. When a bill comes in, pay it. You may be surprised at your rise in productivity.

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