Sunday, February 20, 2011

Things That Annoy Me

Maybe I am being a bit of a fuddy-duddy, but I see an increasing tendency, even for well-educated sorts, to treat "like" and the phrase "such as" as equivalent.  It has always been my impression that “like” is properly used to draw a parallel or make an analogy, while “such as” give a list. 

Example: “The teenager looked at the Camaro like it was his girlfriend.”  The Camaro is not “his girlfriend” but we are drawing an analogy between how he looks at his girlfriend and the Camaro--with that same love-and-lust-filled look. 

On the other hand: “There are many sports cars available in America today, such as the Corvette, Porsche 911, and the Mazda Miata.”  Here we are giving a list of sports cars that are available, not cars that are simply analogous to "sports cars," so use “such as” rather than “like.”

Am I just being hopelessly pedantic?  Or should I just get used to the inevitable future of Idiocracy?


  1. Some say like should be used where the phrase could be "like unto" to draw the comparison.

    Reminds me of the i.e. and e.g. confusion in common use.

    If you decide to crusade about any usage I'd like to see a discussion of decimate which I find meaningless in common usage. I take decimate to mean specifically decreased by 10% or thereabouts. The usage seems to be damaged or decreased by some unspecified amount likely a level of damage impressive to the speaker.

  2. I think that serious pendants would say the sentence should be, "The teenager looked at the Camaro as though it was his girlfriend." :-)

  3. You're not hopelessly pedantic. For those of your students who want or need to become precisionist writers it's worth pointing out this distinction.