Monday, June 21, 2004

Like vs. such as

James Kilpatrick takes the New York Times to task in his column this week. His gripe? Like vs. such as.

He makes two points. First, briefly, he considers possible confusion:
For example, "Contemporary writers like Norman Mailer and Annie Dillard have worked in Provincetown." The "like" in this construction creates an IH - an Infinitesimal Hesitation. For the nanosecond, we wonder which of five "likes" we confront. Is it the verb? Is the Times saying that certain writers "are fond of" something? No! This "like" is a preposition! This "like" means "such as."
Second, he points out that, often, writers are making no comparison at all, rendering "like" nonsensical.
Questions: Who are these masters like Picasso, industrial towns like Birmingham, officials like Governor Pataki and scholars like Warren Zimmerman? What are these movies like "Gladiator," these classics like "Swan Lake"? Where are communities like Veronawalk and Grandezza? A Times critic commented in March on Super Bowl TV commercials "featuring characters like a flatulent horse." Aaargh!
He then points out that no matter how many times the Times gets it wrong, the Washington Post is sure to get it right, "a model in this field."

11 Comments:

At 1:29 AM, June 21, 2004, Blogger Nick said...

The first comment -- about "like" being mistaken for a verb -- is a good one. But the rest ... isn't this just silly pedantry? Can't he just accept that maybe "like" also means "such as"?

 
At 1:54 AM, June 21, 2004, Blogger Bill said...

Nice to see the Post being complimented in an area where many would call us pedantic. I've waffled a bit on this point, and I leave "like" alone when I can justify it, but I'll repeat my favorite example of the usefulness of the distinction:

William Bennett condemned things like gambling, if not things such as gambling.

 
At 2:52 AM, June 21, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think most reasonable people, presented with "William Bennett condemned things like gambling," would assume that gambling was among the things he condemned.

 
At 2:54 AM, June 21, 2004, Blogger Nicole said...

Until they find William Bennett gambling. Then they are forced to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about grammar.

 
At 3:04 AM, June 21, 2004, Blogger Peter Fisk said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 3:04 AM, June 21, 2004, Blogger Peter Fisk said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 3:50 AM, June 21, 2004, Blogger Peter Fisk said...

Using the preposition “like” in an inclusive sense often causes confusion (regardless of how long it has been allowed in the language). This is an issue of clarity, not pedantry or etymological pedigree. When it’s obvious that "like" means “including,” I generally let it stand. When there’s doubt, I rewrite it, but not necessarily with “such as.”

(What’s the record for fouled-up and deleted posts here?)

 
At 10:59 AM, June 21, 2004, Blogger Nicole said...

You're nowhere close to the record, Peter.

 
At 6:42 AM, January 23, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can one leave like as the author liked to here!

Films like Slumdog Millionaire have recently raised great interest.

 
At 3:20 AM, February 04, 2009, Blogger gfutfy said...

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