GWAS: Lessons in The Elements of Style #3 (Like, OMG!)

GWAS: Lessons in The Elements of Style #3 (Like, OMG, you guys!)

"Did you see all the randoms trying to suck up to me when we arrived? They're all like, "Hi, Ja'mie!" Like, as if I'm gonna talk to them just because it's the formal." - Ja'mie King, star of Summer Heights High, sponsor of 85 African children, finalist in DOLLY's covergirl competition.

Adopted by overgrown adults to convey they're 'down with the kids', reality TV stars who need filler content to occupy their vacuous sentences as they channel their brains for actual thoughts and Pauline Hanson to convey her disdain for pesky Asian immigrants ("I don't like it"), for such a nice word, 'like' has a lot of negative connotations. This week we look at its proper-like usage, according to Strunk and White:

Not to be used for the conjunction as. Like governs nouns and pronouns; before phrases and clauses the equivalent word is as.

We spent the evening like in the old days.
We spent the evening as in the old days.

Chloe smells good, like a baby should.
Chloe smells good, as a baby should.

The use of like for as has its defenders; they argue that any usage that achieves currency becomes valid automatically. This, they say, is the way the language is formed. It is and it isn't. An expression sometimes merely enjoys a vogue, much as an article of apparel does. Like has long been widely misused by the illiterate; lately it has been taken up by the knowing and the well-informed, who find it catchy, or liberating, and who use it as though they were slumming. If every word or device that achieved currency were immediately authenticated, simply on the ground of popularity, the language would be as chaotic as a ball game with no foul lines. For the student, perhaps the most useful thing to know about like is that most carefully edited publications regard its use before phrases and clauses as simple error.

Edited extract from The Elements of Style (Illustrated), Strunk, White, Kalman, $19.95, Penguin. If the copy ain't pretty, I simply don't like it. So, the kindly folk at Penguin have allowed me to extract some very important lessons on matters of mastering the English language into as much for my own amusement as a collective refresher course. Yippee!

See also:
Lessons in The Elements of Style #1 (Omit needless words)
Lessons in The Elements of Style #2 (Quotations)

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel


meredith said...


I love, love, love, love, LOVE the elements of style, ESP the maria kalman version!

Did I mention I love it?

So, yeah, awesome post.

LifestyleBohemia said...

Amazing show! Chris Lilley has been working on something new and I can't wait to see what it is!