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.” Ah! Isn’t that so much nicer?