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20170106_161455I just returned from Washington D.C. where I served as a plenary speaker and sectional leader for a Religious Liberty conference held at the University of Maryland. The conference was geared toward college students. I was honored to be invited, and apart from the opportunity to weigh in on what I think are some pretty important topics, I think my time was well spent even if only that I met a lot of really interesting young people who, for all intents and purposes, seem to have a pretty good grasp on some tough things while at the same time are expressing a desire to engage in the battle arenas where these things actually matter most.

Overall, I came away from the event with a certain measure of hopefulness for the future. But I also left the college natives having learned that I never want to be a college professor. Ever. That is, of course, unless this old school language guy can become much more comfortable with the recurrent use of the word “like.”

Nearly every sentence rolling from the lips of a good number of the students with whom I conversed—whether it was grammatically compulsory or not—involved the word “like” far beyond my particular threshold of tolerability.

Again, these were all great kids, and I believe they will correct so many of the mistakes made by my generation and the generation prior. Still, let me offer you an example of what I experienced. And the following is by no means an embellishment.

“So, like, I think that the government is not doing what it should be doing when it, like, forces citizens to go against conscience. Conscience is, like, directly connected to the issues of Religious Liberty, and I think that, like, the First Amendment secures a certain protection from the government, like, doing something that is going to make us, like, go against our religious beliefs.”

A fine point was made amidst a turbulently distracting sea of “likes.”

Like, I get what you’re saying, and I think you’re absolutely right. But maybe, like, reign in the “likes” because what you just said was, like, distracting enough that it, like, lost quite a bit of its import.

Now, one of the things I offered in my particular sectional was the encouragement to the students that the cause for Religious Liberty doesn’t necessarily need for all of its cohorts to be luminaries. In other words, not everyone in the fight will have the celebritous skills enough to be chosen for an interview on CNN or Fox News. But this should not dissuade any of them from getting involved. The cause needs people who know the fundamentals of the issues and are willing to get into the fray and fight hard. One of the fundamentals is most certainly the ability to communicate the positions in ways that are not perceived as immature or emotional. As another of the plenary speakers mentioned, the opposing forces think we hold the political positions that we do because we are “ignorant and mean.” We need to be prepared to speak in ways that prove we are “smart and kind.” This type of language—that is, the over-exertion of the word “like”—takes a smart sentence and makes it less-smart.

I suppose that most of us can look back on our lives and see a time when we spoke with less care for the words we were using, and I suppose that a good number of us eventually grew out of it—well, except for the bus driver who picked me up at the terminal and took me to my car. Every other word from this 50-year-old father of two was also “like.” Although he did spice it up a bit by adding “dude” in equal measure.

Anyway, maybe I’m just being a language snob. I don’t know. Either way, I think if I’m invited back to another of these conferences, I’ll make a kindly effort in one of my sessions to show how language is an important ally for any effort, and perhaps I’ll just say to them straight-forwardly, “If you have the tendency for saying the word ‘like’ more than two times in a single sentence, you’d better sign up for a public speaking class. It might serve you well.”

While I’m on the topic of commotions that distract from substance, the Laphroaig’s 2016 Cairdeas edition has a few here and there.

I love Laphroaig. I really do. If I drank whisky before entering into a debate of some sort (which I don’t), Laphroaig would probably be my first choice. It’s gritty, unbarred, expressive, and wild-eyed enough to put a little fear into any dram that would oppose it. But this one’s brawling confidence seems to have been tamed by a strange interference—and enough so that the whisky just didn’t seem to be of the beloved distillery’s kin.

Now don’t get me wrong. It isn’t bad. It’s just, well, fruitier than you’d expect from Laphroiag.

First of all, the nose is all Laphroaig, although it is on the lesser end of the “gonna beat you to a bloody pulp” scale than one would normally expect from this darling brute. There’s a little bit of some citrus in the wafting, as though an orange had fallen into the peat fire and was incinerated.

The palate is where the distraction begins. There’s smoke, but there’s also a very clean citrus—almost as if it was added later in the form of a syrup. It should be ashen and dirty—a natural nipping—but it isn’t. If I want clean citrus, I’ll go with Glenmorangie. But with Laphroaig, I want a fist fight. This is not a rumbling booze.

The finish is a medium offering of charcoal, sea salt, and again, pristine citrus.

Dangit. Stop it, already. If you’d just cut it out, everything would make perfect sense.

Oh well. I guess that, like, some folks will, like, love this stuff because it is, like, so sweet—almost, like, a bridge whisky from the Highlands to, like, Islay. The rest of us will wonder what the heck this thing is trying to say.

But that’s just, like, my opinion and stuff.