My Photo


Stats & Etc.

  • All written content (c) 2005-2021 Billy Mernit, all rights reserved.

« Clouds in My Coffee #9: Rebirth of a Ladies' Man | Main | Addicted to Love? »



Alas, I must disagree with you. Your dissenter was absoutely wrong that there were not enough "likes".

Credible and effective screenplay dialogue doesn't accurately reflect how everyday people really speak anyway -- regardless of age.

If it did, screenplay pages would be full of "uh", "um", "yeah", and that annoying way people say "huh?" or "what?" even when they heard the question but are stalling for time to answer it.


I have to agree with MaryAn. And further, can i just say: I don't want to go to the cinema to hear people talk as ineptly as they do in the real world. just like i don't want to pay to go see a half-assed rom-com where people like each other quite a lot, and get on ok, so make a go of it, and maybe, y'know after a couple of years they'll think of moving in together or something. I want a bright witty script and characters who say things the way you wish you were able to yourself - and great, passionate, perfect-for-each-other romances. we get to see enough of the average, sub-average and crap in real life. give us our wish fulfillment!!


I started doing to my 17 year old niece what I was taught in a speech class. Everytime she said like, I clapped. Soon I got everyone doing it. She hated me by the end of the weekend, but she wasn't saying like anymore. I told her she'd thank me later. She still hasn't.


MaryAn: But of course! As I said in the post, "if you were to add a truly realistic number of 'like's to such a scene, it would be twice as long" and obviously I wasn't recommending that -- I'd get my screenwriting teacher license revoked.

What I did suggest was the judicious use of one or two "likes" in the course of the scene, to give the proper vibe...

...which is what, Anna, the savvy screenwriter does to give his/her "bright witty script" the right flavor when it's called for. You know I'm 101% with you on wanting passionate, wish-fulfillment romcoms, but for example, one of my faves - 4 Weddings -- uses a subtle but pervasive number of "ums" and "uhs" to give Hugh Grant's lead the right level of embarrassed, self-deprecating awkwardness.

Brooke that's brilliant, and she WILL thank you, hopefully before you're on your death bed.


I agree, it's moderation that's called for here. I'm as guilty as the next guy of abusing "likes" and "you knows", but one person I know says both so frequently I decided to tally and it came out to something like 50 or 60 total in about three minutes. Pretty much, if there was a pause at all, there was a like or a you know. Which is a good argument for the posters. I use both in my fiction on occasion, though I agree, fewer is usually better, and sometimes when I do readings of published works I leave even more out!

E.C. Henry

Guys, let the dog wag the tail, don't allow the tail to wag the dog!

Culture picks up and copycats what we, the screenwriters, put in movies. Case and point: "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure." Growing to high school in the mid-to-late 80s I physcially watched the deterioration of young minds, who actually wanted to talk like Bill and Ted. Bill and Ted were reknowed slackers for those who haven't seen the movie. One kid at my high school even used their infamous tag-line, "Be excellent to each other," as his final remembrance in the high school annual.

So... the moral of the story is (from E.C. Henry's perspective), don't write down to culture's level, meet culture at some common ground, then encourage it to come back up to a higher level.

- E.C. Henry in Bonney Lake, WA

Daniel W.

Kids today! Why, when I was young, we had great speech disfluencies; we used "um" and "er" but never "like". Certainly it isn't the case that nobody speaks English (or any other language) without inserting certain placeholder sounds while they speak and "like" is merely the placeholder currently favored by young people. No, this generation of young people, when they deviate from what was formerly done are signifying a degraded culture by doing so. Because it's, you know, different from the way things were done in the past.


Betsy: Less is surely more.

E.C., I don't believe anyone here is talking about "writing down to culture's level"; the discussion in the comments above is about stylistic choices in being accurate and credible.

Daniel, you seem to be under the impression that there's an anti-youth bias here, and/or that we're old farts talking about how "it was better in our day." Not at all. As the post indicates (in its second part), there's brilliance aplenty in "the kids these days" (some of my favorite recording artists and performers are under 25) -- I'm an advocate for intelligence, period.

If you're living in America and you've actually spoken with and listened to contemporary teenagers, you cannot possibly believe that there was just as much "like abuse" and its equivalent, even 20 years ago. See Betsy's comment above. I did a similar experiment on the UCLA campus a few months back and timed an overheard 20 year-old (by my stopwatch) at 32 uses of the word "like" in 2 minutes.

If you don't think that's indicative of a "degraded culture," we can agree to disagree, but sorry, dude: what's happening now is like, in no way like the way it was, like, in the past.


One more thing -- I love your wonderfully descriptive phrase "placeholder sounds," but not to get all semiological/semantical on this --in the case of "I was like..." and "she's all like..." the phrases don't act as pauses (i.e. the equivalent of "um" and "er"); what's boggling about it is how FAST people are as they use these particular variations (e.g. in the sentence "I'm like, why is Billy all like bent out of shape over this?!" the second like phrase gets no comma-like micro-pause at all).

Apologies, Daniel, I'm like clearly over-caffeinated. :-)


I recently heard a linguist discussing the "like" issue on TV. She called it a "discourse interrupter" (which I thought sounded vaguely dirty, but anyway...) and that the onset of the Like Generation began with the Valley Girl characters in "Clueless". As if!


I think Billy Mernit is next years, Ira Glass... even your minor moments are relevant to us all. (well almost)

I have two teenage daughters, they have tons of friends... from what I can tell, this "like" plague is starting to ebb... slowly.. maybe.. well I can dream cant I?

Certainly there are precursors of all sorts... but what I "like" about "like" is that is so fitting for the post madonna era, full on material, preemptive strike kinda world.

Whereas like is a form of punctuation; it may be imprecise, but fuck, they are kids. I think the slippery slope of "like" is that it is an approximation. Its massive use, mostly in white middle class and above culture... (black kids dont use it much and maybe hispanic girls do, the ones that i know) is a demonstration that these kids, are having a really hard time figuring out what is what.

They say LIKE, because they know somewhere that an experience called life is nearby... they can almost smell it, almost taste it... but after a long day of dealing with hormonal rushes and insane levels of our adult expectations of CONFORMITY... they flail about like freshly caught tuna being poured into the hold of a fishing boat.

After returning from the MALL and buying something new... and IMing with friends for another 3 hours... they think that maybe they should be "like" happy.

This is one of those, Shoot Your TV, bumper sticker moments. Instead of clapping when ever a kid says it... I would give them a Nirana cd and tell them to "Like" go have a listen.


sorry, thats NIRVANA, for all of you who slogged through that last one till the bitter end.


"Like" doesn't seem to have caught on that much in the UK (or at least the South West of the Uk, where I am) but I HATE most teenage additions to the language...Over here it's usually "well" as in "well-funny", "well-scary", "well-clever" etc etc. This seemed to start in my teens and I hated it then, too. Now I'm 26 and it's banned in my classroom, so I guess if Billy's an old fart now, I've been an old fart all my life! ; )


My 8th grade students are partial to the “he was all like” variation. But thanks to the miracle of summer vacation, I don’t have to hear it for 10 weeks. That’s 10 weeks of uninterrupted screenwriting time. (What’s the fun of being a teacher if you can’t rub that in during the warm glorious summer?)

As a reading teacher, let me offer a simple theory that was touched on in a previous post. People, in general, don’t read enough today. Your vocabulary is built by reading. Ergo, they simply don’t know how describe what they want to say. I’ve also found that in the age of ADD and ADHD most of my students are actually suffering from a more common aliment. They are LZ. (LAZY) I have one student who was so lazy he would start a sentence, get tired halfway through, and just end in the middle with “yeah.” I wasn’t his favorite teacher because I had the audacity to make him complete the sentence properly.

That being said, I do realize there are brilliant teenagers all over this great land of ours. (Most of them related to people who read this fine blog.)

My solution. Limit television, limit the computer, and open a book.


This was like, a really great discussion.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

I agree with Craig's point that teenagers are lazy, but teenagers have always been lazy, haven't they?

I wonder if it has more to do with the influence of television, (and not enough reading as Craig points out). My theory is that the use of the word like has to do with fitting in. That's the way everyone talks, so that's the way they talk. And how do they know that that's the way everyone talks? Because they hear it on TV. And in the movies.

Which brings me to my next comment, which is that I agree with MaryAn and Anna, and a few other people who made similar comments. I don't think always a good thing for movies to reflect the 'real' world.

Don't even get me started on reality TV.

I also love Brooke's method for snapping her niece out of the like habit. When my fourteen year old niece uses the word like ten times in one sentence I want to smack her upside the head. I wonder if that would have the same positive effect as the clapping?


Marken: Thank you for getting to the matter I had no time or space to approach, i.e. what the phrase really MEANS! In a post some time ago, I talked about the resurgence of "actually," "really" and "literally" as overused words, citing this as evidence of the culture's increased distance from "reality," whatever that is, and direct experience. Clearly "like" is another indicator...

Lucy: wasn't familiar with the "well" phenom; I'll look out for it (old fart at 26? not highly likely!)...

Craig, yes, this reading thing is a current controversy, especially since "reading" begins to mean, more often than not, "reading on-line"...

Denise, you're like, crackin' me up (and not upside the head)...


Some 20+ years ago I was in a college art library and was amused to overhear two students at my table conversing. The guy's input consisted entirely of "And it was like, you know?" repeated ad nauseum. No, I did not know. But she apparently did. They left together. A rom-com ending?


I'm embarrassed to admit that I do sometimes say "I was all" when talking to my sister or friends. I think it started as a joke, but...

However, the reason I'm leaving a comment is to cast another vote in favor of King Dork. It's all the things Billy said, plus almost impossible to put down. I was sorry when it ended.


Patty: Aw... cute... maybe we call it Rom-Com For Dummies?

Jen: at least you were all, but you weren't all LIKE...

catherine Railton

In defense of teens, and against the constant sterotyping of them, perhaps we can use the default language when it applies to that character, that teen, of that culture, that class, that time, that place, that intelligence, rather than lumping them all in to the "teens of today". One it would be more true, and two it would be more interesting. Their words would mean something, even the "likes" and "you knows"could show us something of their inner life, even if on first encounter it all sounds insipid. Like Eliza Doolittle, underneath the aws and ahs, a real soul exists and needs respect. Verdad??? Haven't we all been there?


Like, yuh-huh!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Billy's Books

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2005