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Like, Love Island is a lesson in how language evolves

3 27 0
21.06.2019

Love Island is not for everyone. You might not appreciate the dating show’s rowdiness; its relentlessness (nearly 50 episodes this season!); its raunch. But even if you’re able to tolerate all that, you might draw a line at the language. I’m not talking about swearing, because there’s something even worse, apparently: Love Islanders’ liberality with their discourse particles.

This is not an innuendo. You can’t catch discourse particles. No, they are little words we use to signpost and structure our speech. Sometimes they are just used to maintain fluency, or to generate rapport. In short, they oil the wheels of communication. One of the big players is “like”. According to the Sunday Times this week, it was used 76 times in under five minutes during one episode of the ITV reality show. The paper provided an example from Islander Amy: “Molly was like ‘oh he’s my type’ and I’m like ‘no sorry you’ve already got two’. It’s like three out of seven boys.” (Not all of these likes are discourse particles, but more of that later.)

For some, this is simply too much. And since the Islanders, and their audience, are mostly young, there’s concern at what the like-glut means for the future of the English language. How can we stop it taking over, until, like, there’s nothing left? One primary school in Bradford has decided to ban the word, to the delight of the education minister, Nick Gibb, who suggested others follow suit. The headteacher, Christabel Shepherd, said: “It’s when children are giving you an answer and they say ‘is it, like, when you’re, like …’ and they haven’t actually made a sentence at all. They use the word all the time and we are trying to get rid of it.”

Good luck, Miss Shepherd. Linguistic edicts of this kind have a........

© The Guardian