It seemed to me when I posted the other day that Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage had pretty well demolished any gossamer distinction between like and such as, even though it lingers in journalistic superstition.
Besides, the AP Stylebook has no entry on it. Neither does Garner’s Modern American Usage. Burchfield’s New Fowler’s is silent on the subject. John Bremner does not bring up the point. Theodore Bernstein dismissed the objection to like in the sense of such as: “The argument is specious because like does not necessarily mean identical.”
But I see that my friend and colleague Bill Walsh finds merit in it, arguing in Lapsing Into a Comma: “The phrase players like Borg, Conners and McEnroe could be read as excluding the very players it mentions. If the meaning is “Borg, Conners, McEnroe and players like them,” you could phrase it just like that, or you could write players such as Borg, Conners and McEnroe.
One commenter on the post made very much the same point.
I propose a put-up-or-shut-up test, assuming that virtually all of you neglected to check out the Merriam-Webster’s entry I cited. Here are the eight examples from that entry. I have given you a choice of like or such as in each. Without sneaking out to see what the authors originally wrote, tell me what proper usage demands in each case.
“Attended” instead of “went to” is taboo with people [like/such as] Mrs. Worldly. (Emily Post)
... and you get more benefit reading someone [like/such as] Hemingway, where there is apparently a hunger for a Catholic completeness in life. (Flannery O’Connor)
Phrases [like/such as] three military personnel are irreproachable and convenient. (Roy Copperud)
It has been used in advertising copy [like/such as] the following. (Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage)
Avoid clipped forms [like/such as] bike, prof, doc. (Hans Guth)
... a mere box-office success [like/such as] Kiss and Tell (George Jean Nathan)
A writer [like/such as] Auden for instance, or [like/such as] Rex Warner, might do a fruitful parody. (G.S. Fraser)
... some very outre works, things [like/such as] Swift’s poem “A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed” (Paul Fussell)