Q: I know that the sentence “He looks like me” is correct usage. Does the same apply in sentences such as “He is like me”? Granted, “He is like I” sounds very clumsy, but I thought the “am” was implied (He is like I am). — Glenda Fayard, Los Gatos, California
A: “He looks like me” and “he is like me” are correct because, in both cases, “like” is functioning as a preposition. The objects of a preposition are always in the objective case (me), not the nominative case (I).
But when you actually include the clause “I am” in the sentence, “like” takes on a different function. It’s now a conjunction connecting two clauses — “he is” and “I am.” So “He is like I am” is correct. You certainly wouldn’t say “He is like me am.”
Purists would argue that “like” should never be used as a conjunction, and that “as” should replace “like” in that sentence. So they would correct the sentence to “He is as I am.”
Q: When I was in school, the proper usage of “waiting on” was in the context of retail stores, as in, “The sales clerk was waiting on a customer.” But now I hear the term “waiting on” used to mean “waiting for,” as in “I am waiting on my sister.” Did the language rules change? — Donna Dutton, Watertown, New York
A: No, and tell that sister to hurry up! “Wait on” has long been an acceptable variation of “wait for.”
It’s especially common in the American South, and it appears frequently in the writings of southerners such as Flannery O’Connor, Maya Angelou and Eudora Welty. But northern writers, from Edith Wharton to E. B. White to Archibald McLeish, have also used “wait on” for “wait for.”
The fact that you’re hearing the expression in northern New York State indicates its national proliferation. Thus, while “wait on” still retains a whiff of magnolias and moonshine, it’s now considered standard English.
Q: I work with two academic advisors here at University of Connecticut’s School of Business Administration. Or should I say “advisers?” – June Froan, Storrs, Connecticut
A: “O” fogies like me still want to spell it “advisor,” but, in our era of “e” commerce and “e” mail, most dictionaries list “adviser” as the preferred spelling. Nevertheless, “advisor” is still acceptable. A recent New York Times headline, for instance, referred to a “former Boris Johnson advisor,” and a recent Boston Globe story cited “White House medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.”
In general, though, take “advisor” to the E.R. and use “adviser.”
Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Connecticut, invites your language sightings. His new book, “Mark My Words,” is available for $9.99 on Amazon.com. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to [email protected] or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.