Monthly Archives: March 2023



‘The ordeals of ‘litel clergeon’* and Cambridge freshman are circumstantially very different, and essentially very much the same.”

— Abbie Findlay Potts, Wordsworth’s Prelude: A Study of Its Literary Form (Cornell University Press, 1953), pg. 283

*a schoolboy in Chaucer’s The Prioresses Tale



A splendid sentence by a magnificent writer.

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2023

a genius for simile


Jason Gay wrote:

Baseball [has] a clock [now].

This is how it should be, and how baseball once was. Have pitchers pitch. Have batters bat. How much of your existence have you already surrendered to this maddening game, which dawdles like an oblivious customer in an airport Starbucks–a tall is the small one, right–as your flight announces its final boarding? [italics added]

— “Thought Baseball Games Were Too Slow. Now They’re Too Fast?,” By Jason Gay, The Wall Street Journal, February 27, 2023


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2023

“She was like, no.”


Walking on East 28th Street today, Sunday, I passed a bagel place. Two young women were chatting at a table outside, One said (talking about a third person not present), “She was like, no. I was like … ”


The use of like — how would one define it grammatically? an intensifier? — has become common among a younger generation; is something new, in terms of idiomatic usage.

Well how about my generation? I grew up in the 50s.

Cool and square. Can you dig it must have sounded strange to our parents’ and grandparents’ ears.

Like is used to signify something without being specific. She was like, angry. She was like, I can’t stand this. She may have actually said this, or said this in essence but not in these exact words.

English lends itself to flexibility and inventiveness. Think of Shakespeare, Chaucer.

This grammar purist wholly endorses like. Or at least doesn’t object to it


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 5, 2023




Like here seems to function as an intensifier, but that may not be the correct grammatical term. Perhaps there is no precise term to classify it.

intensifier — a word, especially an adverb or adjective, that has little meaning itself but is used to add force to another adjective, verb, or adverb: In the phrases an extremely large man and I strongly object, extremely and strongly are both intensifiers.



Addendum, March 10, 2023

A friend of mine has pointed out that the grammatical classification of like is not so simple.

Let’s say one hears said: I got a C minus on my paper and I was, like, in a state of shock.

This is an example of an exaggerated statement that is almost parodies the words used. Because what the speaker is saying — means — is that they were surprised and not happy to get such a low grade but they by no means mean to imply that a state of shock was an actuality – the situation was actually a lot less bad.