Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The curse of me and my friend Elsie

I've decided there are some conditions - or is it some forms of conditioning? - which amount to a kind of curse. Nothing as bad, you understand, as having everything you touch turn to gold, but annoying nonetheless. This morning it was the book I'm enjoying. I may well blog more about the book as a whole when I'm done reading it, but for now I'm at the stage where the narrator is becoming recognisable, so that I begin to care what happens to him; the historical setting is enjoyably unfolding in such a way as to convince, and the grounds for the story are beginning to be laid in a way which promises further involvement. In other words, it's becoming a book I'm enjoying, in the classic manner of a summer read which won't over-tax the brain but is at the same time intelligent and engaging.

So where does the curse come in? Well, towards the end of Chapter four, actually. At the bottom of a page, where I read: "Most, like you or I, are content with the hope of salvation, and leave matters in God's hands." And I feel immediately discomfited. I know people have bothers with "like" and "as", and tend to use "like" as a conjunction - in fact, I'm almost used to that in direct speech. But this isn't even that. It's just one of these sloppy moments - and I feel the writer ought to have been more assured. In fact, I feel it ought to be impossible for him to write that. And it clearly isn't.

But then he didn't have my upbringing. I knew from regular repetition that "like" wasn't a conjunction from such an early age that I can't remember not knowing. I think I used to say "like I did" for devilment. But even devilment wouldn't have me write "like I". See what I mean? It's a curse. And I can't switch it off.

I'll tell you about the book in a bit. As long as there aren't more infelicities.


  1. Like you or "me" sounds better to moi!

  2. I feel I was probably Catriona's age when I started hearing that well used phrase!!I think I heard it a lot, sadly.

  3. Oh dear...is this a UK writer? In the US, I am afraid we are somewhat "sloppy" and, well...like is acceptable in this case I am fairly sure.

    I know that English is one of the most amazing languages because it just "ain't all the same"!

    Can you imagine my hysteria when I first saw the word "learnt"? Or even more disconcerting, the word "funnily"? In all my years, I had never heard those until I read UK blogs!

    Across the pond, but worlds apart, methinks.

  4. Yes, he is a UK writer - and a good one. That's why the glitch upset me! I can't believe "funnily" isn't generally used - I shall try it on my friends from Alabama when I see them next week.

  5. I've been brooding about this. I'm not so sure that the "like" discomfits me: rather it's the punctuation, the use of "or" and the general clunkiness of the sentence as a whole. (The editor - if such there was - should have used his or her ears and asked the author to reconsider.)
    What would you have instead? "as" or "such as"? or what?
    Here's a selection of possible emendations:
    Most people like us are content...
    Most people like you and I are content...
    Most people are like you and I: [they are] content...

    On American usage: I still shiver when the captain of a flight tells me that we shall be taking off momentarily - I want to keep going up to a safe cruising altitude!

    And consider the use of "protest": this side of the pond it generally still means "to bear witness to" or "to affirm" (She protested her abhorrence of "like" used as a conjunction.) If we want to register a protest here, we generally protest at or against something: over there they simply protest it, as, for example, "The crowd protested the leniency of the sentence passed on Mr Madoff."

    The things which used to startle me are those changes inaugurated by Noah Webster: color, center, theater, woolen, installment and the like (pardon that word again!); and one word, now current here: hospitalize - to my ancient brain this still means "to turn someone into a hospital", just as caramelize means "to turn sugar into caramel".
    But there are pleasant surprises: I love the word ouster, used when somebody gets the bum's rush; and I once heard a weather forecaster in Denver invent the word humiture to describe the state of a hot, sticky day.
    We are indeed two countries separated by the same language.

  6. What would you have instead? "as" or "such as"? or what?

    I'd either have "Most, like you or me, are content.." or what you suggest, "Most people like us.."
    I agree about the clunky punctuation, but it worries me less than the use of the nominative after the preposition. It's all in the upbringing, you know!

  7. "Most people are like you and I: [they are] content..."

    Eek! "Like you and ME", shurely????

  8. Yes Kenny. I can only think ABF's mind was addled by age and the lateness of the hour. ;-)

  9. Correct on both counts! If you're looking for a culprit, it am I (which is historically correct).
    It's my diffidence, you see: I am not of the "me, me, me" generation.
    (Can you see that excuse limping?)

    P.S. Why has the preview box suddenly taken to appearing in the middle of the page?