Like, whatever – the language of redundancy

‘We were, like, having sex or whatever,’ a thirtysomething told his mates as we passed each other on the headland. Most days, out walking, I catch snatches of dialogue spoken by folk on phones or in pairs or groups, and the word ‘like’ often intrudes. Which has got me thinking about redundancy. Not as in sacking but surplus. Muffling. Buffering. Overstuffing. Wasted words and minced meanings. Loosening of language from its roots.

The proliferation of the word ‘like’ as a deintensifier (vs. an intensifier, e.g.: ‘totally’, ‘fuckin’ etc.) has, incidentally, more or less kept step with the rise of virtual reality and pop-science essays speculating on the probability that we all exist as digital entities in a vast computer simulation. Meanwhile, ‘like’ as social media currency, noun and verb, also deflects intensity. A low-risk unit of exchange, a reflexive (vs. reflective) response, a politely noncommittal token of goodwill and so on… The thing is, this collective loss of intensity comes with lack of fulfilment. Blandness. Flatness. Uniformity. Virtual space styled to pacify. Like babies and the aged who need spoon-feeding, our passive and drooling society is fed a pureed diet.

On the one hand, we live in a world that increasingly shares a common language – reduced to ever more basic components as the forces of globalisation and digital culture (or the biases of programmers) erode nuances of meaning and regional subtleties. And, on the other hand, the societal landscape abounds with diverse ‘experts’ who appear to know a lot merely because the masses know squat, and who make a killing based less on content than presentation – like consultants I’ve seen of late who rattled off rote information (no more useful than what I’d googled) then overcharged into the bargain. Accountant, naturopath, whatever: the former, at $5.50 per minute, at least watched the clock; the latter, at $2 per minute, kept lurching off topic. Their messages missed the mark but, because their mouths are monetised, the meter never stopped running.

Today, in our toothless (yet paradoxically ruthless) culture, we hear constant warnings about ‘disinformation’: false content geared to manipulate the public and/or obscure the truth. But who decides what’s true and why? Those of us who deem ourselves well educated might, when ‘researching’ online, favour studies that come peer reviewed. I parsed a fair few of those during peak Covid, and now I’m parsing some more on bones (osteoporosis being another invisible killer). Articles dense with sciencey jargon, which look like they might contain some hard facts, soon, upon close scrutiny, reveal their essence. So, e.g., ‘Optimising Dietary Protein for Lifelong Bone Health’ boils down to: ‘Hi folks, my name is Dr Waffle, PhD, food scientist, TV personality, consulting firm CEO, and shameless shill for private industry. So if you want healthy bones, you could do worse than eat more protein. Much more. Animal protein.’ Turns out the doc is keen to refute decades of studies that suggest excess animal protein leaches calcium from bones. He also writes cookbooks. Would you like that with waffles?

And so, while disinformation masquerades as fact, so does officially sanctioned (as in high Google-ranked sources of) information. Dr Waffle’s research was funded via the infamous American Egg Board and its beef and dairy co-equals, which aggressively market factory-farmed products under the guise of nutrition. For millions of Americans who aren’t paying attention, these industry groups seem dedicated to educating – which is true insofar as consumers like to be lulled into a false sense of security. Waffle = padding. Pudding. Befuddling words. Food to fatten you up.

So what does it even mean if something is like something else? ‘Like’ is relative. Two things might be identical, like clones, or goods (evils?) mass-produced from the same mould: more alike than things, including twins, created by nature. Then again, something might simply look like something else: counterfeit cash, fake IDs, art forgeries, dentures, tinted contacts, penile implants, augmented breasts, prosthetic limbs, spam from scammers. Fake it till you make it (‘it’ meaning money in our culture). Semblance, resemblance, assemble, dissemble, dissimulate, verisimilitude, simulation, simile, smiley face, like…

The link between language and what it signifies has languished with the rise of the internet. ‘Home’, once an abode or habitat, is now a display in cyberspace – not somewhere to live, or even to visit in the flesh. Dwell too long in this parallel dimension, and you risk becoming benumbed. Dumbed down. Muted. The embodied resonance of vocal cords gives meaning to ‘ringing true’ (or false) in ways unmatched by words and/or images on a screen. Investigative journo Eric Francis Coppolino, reporting on the booming Flat Earth movement, writes of how ‘the ground falling out of the world when it is uploaded to the internet’ results in a disoriented culture: ‘The body, under digital conditions, has been reduced to a disease vector’.

And, like social media, social distancing promotes a self-consciously lateral focus. Likeness puts people (ditto, places and things) on an equal footing. Level playing field. Even ground. Grid. Network. Web. And our horizontally fixated world is taken further by flat-earthers, for whom seeing is believing ad absurdum: surveying the lie of the land, they perceive a flat plane and so fail to understand that our spheroid Earth is spinning on its axis as it orbits the Sun (which appears, through eyes wide with childlike wonder, to be circling us).

Herd mentality is essentially horizontal in character. United by resemblance, herd members fear, shun and punish deviance. And horizontality aids unconsciousness in the human body: blackout, sleep, coma, death and, way too often, sex – a deeply unconscious act for most people. Compare clichéd sex (man rolls off onto back, then snores) with upright tantric coupling that channels (vs. expending) the energy, enabling the awakening and ascent of kundalini and, ideally, cosmic consciousness – the opposite of (and a cure for) narcissistic separation from self.

On a micro scale, narcissism looks for mirrors. Sounds smug. Feels distant. A narcissist can charm when they need feedback (on their latest creative effort? Or some photos? Of them?) and, disarmed, you offer a response. But even if it satisfies, forget reciprocal interest. They just tell you more about themselves. A narcissist needs an audience and your sole role in their life is to applaud.

But what might this look like on a macro scale? Market research. Corporations need feedback. And if you get chosen, which only happens if you fit the right demographic, your token reward is a poxy little gift card. They screen you first to check your susceptibility to their goods or services. Then they extract and factor in your opinion and update their tactics. But that’s just one side of the toxic dyad. The other is the customer who gazes into the mirror the corporate god holds up, and falls for a fantasy – a digitally enhanced, unreachable ideal. So, as with plastic surgery, one procedure is never enough. Lifts, tucks, lipo, filler, laser and dermabrasion can’t make you perfect. And the more time and money spent on such renos, the less authentic you get. It’s the opposite of alchemy or transmutation of shit into gold – the more you view yourself or those you love from the outside, the less attuned you are to your inner life and that of others. Narcissus lost touch with the world beyond his own reflection. And we’re, like, doing the same or whatever under the spell of our corporate Nemesis.

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11 Responses to Like, whatever – the language of redundancy

  1. This is, like, brilliant, insightful, heartbreaking and funny. Our current use of language and it’s disconnect from the land and our bodies and meaningful relationship brings me grief. A soullessness. Your writing is a source of relief, even if what you are exposing is so devastatingly clear. I sense it is going to take the current crisis to culminate and if there is anything left of our species, language can begin its rebirth.

    I live on the Country of the Darug and Gundungurra peoples. I pay respect to traditional custodians and elders past, present, stolen and emerging. I acknowledge and respect First Nations traditional custodians and elders throughout Australia and recognise their sovereign connections to land, water and culture. I commit to learning and connecting with country, to serve as best I can, a custodian relationship to the land. ________________________________

    • Thanks for your validating response. When I see what others (many of whom I respect &/or admire) are writing, I often feel my commentary is too negative. But you have to give folk a sense of hope if you want subscribers. My purpose w/ this blog has always been, & remains, to offer my own slant on the world beyond the merely personal – as a spin-off of venting feelings while figuring out what I think. There’s enough rehashed opinion doing the rounds w/o me joining in.

      Wholeheartedly agree w/ you, re the disconnect you refer to. For me, the preformatted acknowledgement of Country appearing in the dimensionless virtual sphere raises many interesting questions.

      • Oooops, I had no idea that acknowledgement of country would come through in the comment, it was not intended, but obviously good for opening up discussion which I’d love to have with you at some stage. It does raise questions, as does all of this realm of virtual space. I added my own version to the bottom of my emails not long ago, as an accountability to myself, which is something I am focussing on personally at present.
        I don’t find your commentary too negative, you expose the world that you are writing about, without frills or bullshit and with an increasing sense of humour. I find it refreshing.

      • Fantastic! I look forward to having that conversation. Isn’t email – & specifically Outlook, but especially Beta – wonderful 😉 (where’s the IRONY emoticon?). It hides random emails in, say, Archive… then shows stuff redundantly: a clue that you didn’t intend your postscript to come through was the long line at the end. No bullshit, but just a bit batshit, maybe. 🙂

  2. Evil Anglo says:

    My favourite ludicrous corporate claim was by the Bang guy, who asserted that drinking Bang specifically may cure mental retardation. ((( S U P E R — C R E A T I N E ))) His company was later and/or is still being sued by rival energy drink product Reign’s parent company for fraudulent claims, the same company whose advertisement schemata implies you too can have access to your own vapid looking starving starlet if you konsoom product. Wicked hard, dude.

    I promised myself I wouldn’t get caught up in flat earth again, except to say, I’m a proud evangelist for Phat Earth. Whatever.

    I always assumed that the ejaculatory clauses speech (like, ummm, seriously… etc) were American phenomena. I wasn’t aware the Aussies had it too. It’s a shame. I’ve often looked to the British for inspiration in the domain of elocution, only to find that for all the manufactured consensus that their own use of our shared hereditary language has suffered a like similar degeneration as our own. So, perhaps I ought not be surprised.

    I guess what the world needs is more CreaTEN, and some Creapure. Recent studies indicate the consumption of excess creatine may help stave off dementia.

    Personal nerve, call me a narcissist. I lift, therefore I consume. I’ve used the proteins, the creatines and rhyming memes. End of day all it is, is a parasitic conglomerate machining the insecurities of the masses engineered by a preconditioned media outlook, with painfully predictable subliminal advertisements that become embarrassingly obvious layer. But there’s no money in folk being actually happy in the skins they’re in. No problem/reaction/solution manipulation, no monopoly of variables. Say what you will of the body positive folks, they might be clumsy and lost in the neoliberal puckerbrush, but they’re not wrong about everything.


    Good stuff, as always. Hopefully all is well with you.

    • Thanks for this full-bodied comment. I like your use of ‘wicked’ as an intensifier. And thanks for getting me googling creatine (tho’ I be going batshit from too much googling of trace elements etc. in foods).

      What you’ve assumed to be Americanisms are, in fact, Americanisms. Which is why we have them in Oz, the US being such an epic exporter of culture. Many folk here have begun to adopt US spellings, unaware that we have our own. A Brit friend of mine often uses slang I’ve never seen before. A lot of us come from Anglo stock but those linguistic roots have gotten lost, & not because we’ve acclimatised, no: we just keep importing more of whatever big corporations are selling.

      Hmm… You don’t sound like a garden-variety narcissist. Wonder which brand of body positivity you mean? I hadn’t yet considered how the stance might align politically. 🙂

      • Evil Anglo says:

        My pleasure. I believe in the liberation and celebration of well-endowed commentaries.

        It’s as I had feared then. The brutal irony about the cultural import/export market is it’s a two-way. Americans love, ate least, safespace British stuff, consume it, and in turn re-export it. Re: The Crown, a Netflix production- I believe. It’s all a shame, because the first place Americanism destroyed, was America. Regional accents ameliorated, customs forgotten. All so we can sound like surfers.

        As to the positivity question, I hadn’t considered which kind. A lot of it boils down to simple math. I’m a Nationalist, politically. Women account for half the population. In the West, more than half the women are “overweight.” The culture denigrates fat people, but takes a harsher light to women. Most Nationalists agree and amplify. Nevermind that, statistically, there are plenty of men (myself admittedly among them) who are attracted to heavy women. But I don’t think that it’s a winning strategy to alienate roughly half of your potential constituency by mocking a rough third of it. It’s nothing more than immature, maybe insecure playground antics for adults.

      • OK – so here you mean sizewise positivity (tho’ you treat the topic more inclusively in your blog post). Once upon a time, a big-breasted, broad-hipped female figure signified fertility &/or sufficiency: the life-giving Earth. Nowadays, in general, or statistically, it indicates loss of connection w/ one’s body & earthy instincts through ensnarement in the digital net & addiction to foods injected w/ fat or fed hormones (what folk do to their food, they end up doing to themselves :)).

        Re nationalists, I’m aware of the stereotypes. But I’d imagined they vary as much as do, say, radical leftists…? ________________________________

      • More or less, yes. The old Venuses. I tend to believe, personally, that they had, and likely have, a key to contextualising a good deal of mythic structures that evolved out of them.

        There are many flavours of Nationalist, yes. Enough that listing them would be a chore. To name a few: Civic Nationalists, Ethnonationalists, National-Socialists, National-Bolshevists. Nationalists can and do occur on both sides of the left/right paradigm. Others are centrist.

      • Another serving. , other than esoteric hoodoo that’s about what I have to offer.

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