A brief analysis of the use of “like” in the Vergecast

TLDR: How come smart journalists use “like” as a vocal segregate so much?

I’ve enjoyed The Vergecast (https://www.theverge.com/the-vergecast) (RSS: https://feeds.megaphone.fm/vergecast) since it was This is My Next, and, before that, The Engadget Podcast. I’ve enjoyed and benefited from the excellent writing and content at The Verge since first it was established over a decade ago.

Similar to so many other listeners, I have a para-social relationship with the written voices of journalists at The Verge and their spoken voices when they appear on The Vergecast. When I listen to the podcast I feel as though I know the characters as friends, even if they don’t know me. These are journalists at the top of their game, covering a vast and quick moving beat, the intersection of tech, culture, and policy. I’ve learned a lot about all of those areas, I’ve made plenty of purchases based on their reporting, and I’ve used information from The Verge and Vergecast in business too.

The appeal of podcasts like this (as opposed to the more structured and scripted ones with lots of music beds etc.) is the conversational aspect. Friends chatting about stuff they cover and about which they are knowledgeable. But here’s the rub, conversation is different from writing. And today’s conversation is littered with the word “like” as a vocal segregate. The problem I have with this is that, unlike other common vocal segregates such as “ah” or “umm”, the word “like” actually means something. I guess what I find so jarring is knowing how well my “friends” write and the disconnect between that and the spoken conversation.

What’s to be done? Is this a battle we’ve lost? I hope not.

So here’s a quite unscientific parsing of a few minutes of a few recent episodes of The Vergecast.

Vergecast of Jan 18 2023 – Approximately first 9:40 minutes of actual show content.
Alex Cranz and Monica Chin
Google Recorder transcript here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vTVvIKYxA6C_1u95ZtZe_jCxMeGk-HY440RrAWmtpYq4TmAyt9kQfolI12c-NklJFxSztnzaaqdVrni/pub
2183 words total. 132 instances of “like”, of which 106 are vocal segregates. Thus 4.86% of total words.

Vergecast of January 13th 2023 – Minutes 2:08 to 11:45
Alex Cranz, Richard Lawler, and Dan Seifert
Transcription from https://app.podscribe.ai/episode/84530399
Analysis: https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vSryMRGbWlXORLeEFZZYQrhJpiMBnkB6AE9maxwv_52uSLLu9BJarj5m6TV45aLfco28OxbUgzHKuyo/pub
2168 words total. 78 instances of “like”, of which 67 are vocal segregates. Thus 3.09% of total words.

Vergecast of Jan 11 2023 – Minutes 1:31 to 11:33
Alex Cranz, Jennifer Pattison Tuohy, Chris Welch, and Andrew Hawkins
Transcript from https://app.podscribe.ai/episode/84516474
Analysis: https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vS6aKOtuZsFrF8Q6KOH12_vfaQFv1bSGEBcdwyYAdPVimK636KEfSFb7WOYoZCqQJfiajTtbdwzPgVF/pub
2051 words total. 39 instances of “like”, of which 22 are vocal segregates. Thus 1.07% of total words.

Vergecast of Jan 11 2023 – Minutes 25:39 to 36:46
Alex Cranz, Jennifer Pattison Tuohy, Chris Welch, and Andrew Hawkins
Transcript from https://app.podscribe.ai/episode/84516474
Analysis: https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vS9VGafYxBJL5SDxT3u3P_2lrbY6gz-mNJ_Z9mxTvwMlZseXylfskwPNxYhz2b8k-yxC3bFSCO1JAdl/pub
2306 words total. 80 instances of “like”, of which 72 are vocal segregates. Thus 3.12% of total words.

And it’s not a new phenomenon:
A “Like” Supercut of Paul Miller and Kaitlyn Tiffany on Vergecast 231:

A “Like” Supercut of Paul Miller and Andrew Webster on Vergecast 231

@reckless @mcsquared96 @monicawchin@masto.nu @alexhcranz @dcseifert@mastodon.social @rjcc @rjcc@mastodon.xyz @jp2e @chriswelch @andyjayhawk

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