Brian Edwards Media

This is Driving Me Nuts!

Here is the first sentence from an Associated Press report which I’ve just finished reading in the online edition of today’s Herald:

“WikiLeaks has offered to help the likes of Google and Apple identify the software holes used by purported CIA hacking tools – and that puts the tech industry in something of a bend.”

Now I don’t know who penned this story but it wouldn’t surprise me if the author was a Kiwi.

Why? Because “the likes of” has almost entirely replaced “like” , meaning “similar to”, in New Zealand journalism and, I fear, in everyday speech.

So why am I getting my knickers in a twist over this? Because “the likes of” is such an unnecessary and ugly construction compared to the simpler, more practical and more elegant “like”. Take this example:

1. Broadcasters the likes of Paul Henry, John Campbell and Mary Wilson are paid huge sums of money.

2. Broadcasters like Paul Henry, John Campbell and Mary Wilson are paid huge sums of money.

And it’s even uglier when the phrase is at the beginning of a sentence:

“Some broadcasters are paid huge sums of money. The likes of Paul Henry, John Campbell and Mary Wilson earn ten times more than the average nurse.”

Ugh! And this is now the norm in both the Kiwi print and broadcast media.

Can we please get back to plain, totally sufficient and so much easier on the eye and ear “like”:

“Broadcasters like Brian Edwards and Judy Callingham never ever say “the likes of.”

Ahhhhhhhhh! Isn’t that so much nicer?

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  1. To me “the likes of” is not only needlessly verbose in cases like this, it actually has additional connotations that sounds much more judgemental than a simple comparison.

    The one I hate even more than this is the excessive use of the word “majority” as if it is an exact synonym for “most”. As well as being needlessly verbose again, it is often the wrong word entirely.

    This happens because people just string phrases together without properly considering what they mean.

  2. Soooooooooooooooooooooooooo………

    Q. How many idiots are there in the present govt?
    A. Soooooooooooo…. research has been carried out and 99.9%…………..

    Good answer but awful language and heard daily on RNZ et al.

  3. I have to disagree Brian. Your example doesn’t have the same construct as the quote you used from the associated press report.

    The sentence in the report doesn’t identify the group to which the term ‘the likes of’ is applied whereas you do first identify the group in your example.

    you’ve used the word broadcasters to identify the group of people in your example sentence, but the associated press report doesn’t have an identifier in the same sentence prior to the use of ‘the likes of’.

    if the report had used an identifier first then im sure the author wouldn’t have used ‘the likes of’. For example, ‘WikiLeaks has offered to help tech giants like Google and Apple…’

    The term ‘the likes of’ is a way of grouping Google and Apple together as ‘likes’ when there is no preceding identifier in the sentence to do that.

    If you take out the word ‘broadcasters’ in your example then ‘the likes of’ would be the way to group the people together when there is no preceding identifier.

    For example: The report identified broadcasters as one of the overpaid groups. The likes of Paul Henry, John Campbell and Mary Wilson are paid huge sums of money.

    ‘the likes of’ here is used to group those people together as ‘likes’ (i.e they are all broadcasters), because there is no identifier in the same sentence. But if the identifier was used in the same sentence as the people then ‘the likes of’ wouldn’t be correct to use.

    @Rick Hudson – most is a synonym of majority. Also, you have written “As well as being needlessly verbose again,…” which is ironic. Consider “As well as being verbose,..”
    if you are using one word in place of another it can’t be verbose because the word verbose essentially means using too many words…

    • ……bloody hell……..just didn’t see that coming.

    • Thanks Mike. I disagree. And here’s the reason: Your comment seems to imply that I said the usage of “the likes of” was wrong. My objection was threefold – that I found it ugly, that it had a dismissive or derogatory feel and that it was driving me nuts. You may not ‘feel’ or ‘find’ any of that and it may not drive you nuts, but you can’t say it’s “wrong”. Cheers!

  4. I wonder what the likes of Apple and Google will do with the learnings from these potential discussions with WikiLeaks?

  5. Sorry to attempt to hijack the thread with my own personal bugbear. The use of the weird “learnings” instead of “lessons” (which has the advantage of actually being a real word) seems ubiquitous in sport journalism at the moment. I’m not sure if it has migrated out of that domain.

    In general though, I think you can waste a lot of time and energy moaning about these sorts of things. It’s something that marks you out as a curmudgeon. Of course you might think that sounds like a badge of honour rather than something to be avoided.

    I am sure the phrase “going forward” appears more often in rants about how awful “going forward” is than in any other context. Recently on Nat Radio they had one of those email-in bitch fests where people would raise their own pet peeves in this area. Someone quite rightly pointed out that people now say “absolutely” instead of just “yes”. I am guilty as charged, but I must admit I am going to continue saying “absolutely”, because bugger it, I like to.

    Language is a dynamic thing and attempts to freeze it in perpetuity just at the point where you personally formed your personal preferences are doomed.

  6. “On a daily basis” is an even worse tautology.

    • Someone, anyone, please explain how that’s tautology?

      • 6.1.1

        I think he or she is referring to examples like; “the flowers are watered on a daily basis”, when “the flowers are watered daily” would do just as well. Extra, redundant words. Just like a tautology. But strictly speaking not a tautology (I don’t think).

  7. I noticed that politicians use ‘more fast’ instead of quicker or faster. >more is often used badly and they are getting more worse at it :)

  8. Everyone seem to have missed the last word of your quotation: “. . . something of a bend.”
    That doesn’t make sense unless the tech industry has just surfaced too quickly from a deep dive.
    “something of a bind.” makes more sense.

    However, I think this mangling of the English language has gone too far to be reversed. The best we can do is observe and feel superior. That’s what this old curmudgeon is doing.

  9. 9

    I agree John, sigh and move on. I’m no grammar expert and I make my share of mistakes. However one that bugs me is a sign on the fridge at Glengarry Wines (a place I frequent often) that reads: ‘Please do not take bags in the fridge’.
    I’ve pointed out the error, in a nice way, but it remains there year after year.
    I have yet to find a bag in the fridge to take.
    So I sigh and move on.

    • 9.1

      You make an important point. You write,”Iā€™m no grammar expert and I make my share of mistakes.” which shows that you are aware of your mistakes. Most people, I’m sure, think their grammar and spelling is just fine.
      The staff at Glengarry Wines probably think there’s nothing wrong with their sign. On the other hand, they could be doing an Arkwright by deliberately getting it wrong to attract customers. You’ve just given them a free plug.

  10. RIP The grand daddy of rock n roll and the master of the blues…………

  11. Thanks for that, Kat… the blues and love Chuck Berry (but not his disgusting perversions), but never was aware that the two ever met up. Never heard him doing anything remotely bluesy before.

  12. *My* interpretation of “the likes of” is that the groups being compared are unexpected in some way i.e. unlikely.

    In the quotation
    “WikiLeaks has offered to help the likes of Google and Apple identify the software holes used by purported CIA hacking tools ā€“ and that puts the tech industry in something of a bend.ā€

    In the quote the two groups are unexpected bedmates.
    Wikileaks is an organisation that is at odds with a lot of govts.
    The leading tech companies are bastions of capitalism and are tied to the US government in ways that private citizens are not allowed to know about.
    So having them work together is strange and odd. (And it’s also odd because Wikileaks know that Google and Apple aren’t allowed to plug the holes through which the CIA gain access.)

    *I* would use “like” here
    “Broadcasters like Paul Henry, John Campbell and Mary Wilson are paid huge sums of money. ”
    because that is expected.

    but “the likes of” here
    “Broadcasters are offering to pay the likes of John Doe, Jane Doe and Mary Smith huge sums of money”
    It seems unexpected to be paying these unknown people huge sums of money.

    And that’s where I think it gets it’s derogatory connotation because it’s becomes the writer’s opinion about whether the two groups are an unlikely combination, that one group holds different, presumably lesser, status to the other.

    *I* don’t mind “the likes of” and feel it different enough to “like” to be worthwhile. It’s pretty informal English though and I wouldn’t expect to see it in any writing more formal than newspaper writing.

    (Unbelievably, I started every paragraph with “So” and had to think for some 10s of seconds how to change it! The epidemic power of language.)

  13. To me, the use of ” ..likes of…” reminds me more of southern working class culture in UK. There was a ditty from the 1950’s that still lingers with me. ” I’ve had enough of the sort of stuff I get from the likes of you “.
    In the USA we have to contend with the use of “like ” instead of ” as if “. For example, sidewalk notices asking us to, ” Drive like your children lived here “