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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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like

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

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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decluttering

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob or an un-alphabetized bookshelf.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer slowing you down? Does it make a simple job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment to improve your productivity.

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better equipment, better work

What is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes.

In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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Opinion Editorials

How to build a company culture while working remotely

(OPINION EDITORIAL) It seems that even a post COVID-19 world will involve remote work, so how can you build and maintain a strong work culture that ensures growth and satisfaction?

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culture remotely

New startups and existing companies are starting to transition to a fully remote (or nearly fully remote) model, but what does this mean for work culture? If you’re not careful, your work culture could easily become diminished as you transition to a remote environment, and if you’re building a company from the ground up, you may not have a strong culture to begin with.

Culture isn’t something you can afford to give up, so how can you build and maintain your company culture while working remotely?

The importance of a strong work culture

Maintaining a strong, consistent company culture is vital, even if your company is operating remotely. With a strong work culture, you’ll enjoy benefits like:

  • Better recruiting potential. A company with strong work culture will seem more attractive to talented candidates. The best people in the industry will want to work at a place with a great team and a great set of values.
  • Like-minded teammates. Establishing a consistent work culture allows you to selectively hire, then maintain employees who are like-minded. Employees with similar goals and mentalities, even if they come from different backgrounds, will be able to collaborate more efficiently.
  • Smoother communication. A strong foundational work culture that establishes goals, values, and beliefs within an organization can enable smoother, more efficient communication. Staff members will be on the same page with regard to high-level priorities, and will be able to exchange information in similar patterns.
  • Lower stress and less turnover. Better work cultures generally mean lower stress for employees, and accordingly, less employee turnover. Of course, this assumes you’re hiring good fits for the organization in the first place.
  • A better public reputation. Your work culture can also boost your public reputation—especially if you emphasize core values that are important to your target audience.

How to build company culture remotely

Traditionally, you can use in-person team-building sessions, regular meetings, and workplace rules to establish and maintain your company culture, but while working remotely, you’ll need to employ a different set of tactics, like:

  • Hiring the right candidates. Building a great culture starts with hiring. You have to find candidates who fit with your organization, and already share your core values. If someone doesn’t agree with your high-level approach, or if they don’t like your rules or workflows, they aren’t going to do their best work. These same considerations should be applied to your third party hires as well; agencies and freelancers should also fit into your values.
  • Hosting virtual team-building events. You can’t host in-person team-building events, but that doesn’t mean that team-building is inaccessible to you. Consider hosting a video conference to introduce your team members to each other, or bond over a shared event. You could also host virtual game nights, or provide team lunches to celebrate wins. Any excuse to engage with each other in a non-work context can help employees feel more connected and part of the team, and there are plenty of options to make it work virtually.
  • Streamlining communication. Good communication is both a constituent factor and a byproduct of effective company culture. If you want your culture to thrive, you have to set good standards for communication, and encourage your employees to communicate with each other consistently and openly. People need to feel heard when they speak, and feel comfortable voicing their opinions—even if they don’t agree with their superiors. There should also be easily accessible channels for communication at all levels. Over time, this foundation will help your employee communication improve.
  • Improving transparency. Workplace transparency is important for any employer, but it’s especially important for remote businesses trying to build or maintain a strong culture—and it’s challenging if you’re operating remotely. If you’re open and honest about your goals and how you operate, employees will feel more trusted and more engaged with their work. Strive to answer questions honestly and disclose your motivations.
  • Publishing and reiterating company core values. One of the biggest factors responsible for making a company culture unique is its set of core values. Spend some time developing and refining your list of core values. Once finished, publish them for all employees to read, and make time to reiterate them regularly so employees remember them.
  • Making employees feel valued. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make your employees feel valued. Take the time to show your appreciation however you can, whether it’s through a simple thank-you message or an occasional cash bonus, and be sure to listen to employee feedback when you get it.

Building a work culture in a remote environment is more challenging, and requires consideration of more variables, but it’s certainly possible with the right mentality. Spend time setting your priorities, and make sure you’re consistent in your execution.

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