In a recent face-to-face with a 15-year-old schoolgirl at a cross-country run I counted 11 scatterings of the word "like" in her never-ending sentence.
I apologised for my divided attention and explained that recent research, in England where they take their English seriously, uncovered the ten most irritating phrases (Oxford University) and the ten most overused words (Language Trainers, UK).
Somehow, the babblings of sportsmen and women who give "110 per cent" (or more), who "can't wait" (for the next challenge) or claim "it hasn't sunk in yet" (weeks after success), escaped scrutiny.
To no one's surprise, however, "at the end of the day" topped Oxford's list with its irksome sibling "it is what it is" and their cringe-worthy cousins "to be honest" and "it's not rocket science."
All have conspired to shunt "whatever!" from the lazy lexicon, and that's a good thing, but why do we need more words to express less when the trend is towards texting and talking in stultifying acronyms, such as LOL, OMG, POS and GOAT?
"Like" has become the adolescent proxy for their parent's dependence on "you know," the "filler" used when the right words won't come.
Other idiosyncrasies of modern chat are not so easily explained. A simple "thank you" has grovelled into "thank you so much!" The word "iconic" is affixed to everything that is old!
Why do we answer questions with a "yeah, no" when we really mean "yes," and why is it never "no, yeah"? Why do we still speak the extended version of two-thousand-and-nineteen when, last century, years were routinely read and said as "19-19", as in Twenty-20 cricket?
"Like" has become the adolescent proxy for their parent's dependence on "you know," ...
The electronic media is partly to blame because they seem stuck in the long form, but that same media is lately riddled with howlers like "buildings suffered damage" (only living things suffer), "decimated half the Saudi oil supply" (decimate means a tenth of), and a "very, very unique holiday" (there are no degrees of unique).
After I published a book of short stories in 2016, Ararat's Marian College invited me to address students interested in creative writing and there I said that "teen speak" had killed "awesome" as a meaningful expression of awe.
"Awesome is the loneliest adjective in the world," I cried.
"Give it some company, impress your mates with 'astonishing, astounding' and even 'stupendous'!"
Fat chance of that!
Google chronicles 2.1 billion hits on "awesome" against a paltry 83 million for "astounding."
The pandemic rages unchecked, now spilling from the mouths of afflicted adults, including a regional baker who reckons his pies are "deliciously awesome."