The Almighty ‘Like’

by Jay Nordlinger

At the end of my column yesterday, I had an item on the word “like” — “like” as in, “Can you, like, help me figure this out?” I said I was covering a concert of the New York Philharmonic, in which the orchestra was accompanying the movie West Side Story. (I could explain the setup, but it would take too long.) I was surprised to find this use of “like” in “Gee, Officer Krupke.” For example, one line goes, “Like, we’re psychologic’ly distoibed.” These lyrics were written in the mid-1950s. I had thought “like” was of more recent vintage.

Many readers wrote me to say, “What’s the matter with you, don’t you know that ‘like’ arises from Beatnik culture?” Several of those readers cited a sitcom, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which ran from 1959 to 1963. The show had a Beatnik character, Maynard G. Krebs, who said “like.” He was played by Bob Denver, who would go on to greater fame as Gilligan.

Like, I never knew. Sorry!