Back on June 6, in his post "Drinking the Strunkian Kool-Aid: victims of page 18", Geoff Pullum wrote:
I am not a style doctor or writing adviser, and (unlike Strunk and White) I don't think everyone should write like me. My interest here is solely in the fact that we need an explanation for the fact that educated Americans today have scarcely any clue what "passive clause" means. [emphasis added]
A few days ago, on July 21, (someone going by the name of) David Walker happened on this post and added a comment:
"I don't think everyone should write like me." Me? Is that correct?
The short answer, of course, is "yes". But if you were interested in short answers, you wouldn't be reading Language Log. So after the jump, you'll find a longer one.
Mr. Walker represents (or gives a fine imitation of) the "nervous cluelessness" that modern grammar teaching generates in its victims. He's uneasy about this case, I conjecture, because two shibboleths intersect: "me vs. I" and "like vs. as".
In fact, neither of these prescriptivist bugbears applies here — but the only thing that Walker recalls (or pretends to recall) from his grammatical instruction is that he should be nervous whenever one of these choices arises, and thus doubly nervous when both choices arise at once.
In the quoted phrase ("… everyone should write like me"), like me is a prepositional phrase functioning as a manner adverbial. That is, like takes a noun-phrase complement, as in "walk like an angel", "ran like nobody's business", "handles like a shopping cart with a wobbly wheel"; and the combination like + NounPhrase serves as an adjunct telling us how someone or something writes, walks, runs, handles. etc. When the complement happens to be one of the pronouns that still indicates case, it's naturally in the objective case: here "me".
Thus it has been for several hundred years. Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet "Doting like me, and like me banished". Thomas Campion's My sweetest Lesbia, let us live and love ("Set foorth to be song to the Lute, Orpherian, and Base Violl") attempted to improve on Catullus Carmen 5 with these lines:
If all would lead their lives in love like mee,
Then bloudie swords and armour should not be,
No drum nor trumpet peaceful sleepes should move,
Unles alar'me came from the campe of love.
Swift, in The Lady's Dressing Room:
He soon would learn to think like me,
And bless his ravisht Sight to see
Such Order from Confusion sprung,
Such gaudy Tulips rais'd from Dung.
Southey, To Lycon:
Be mine, in age's drooping hour, to see
The lisping children climb their grandsire's knee,
And train the future race to live and act like me.
Shelley, Julian and Maddolo:
Even the instinctive worm on which we tread
Turns, though it wound not–then with prostrate head
Sinks in the dust and writhes like me–and dies?
No: wears a living death of agonies!
Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop: "… he told me about my mother, and how she once looked and spoke just like me when she was a little child".
And so on. So why does Walker (pretend to?) worry about whether me is "correct"?
The first reason involves a chain of events something like this:
1. Many people say or write things like "you and me were meant to be".
2. Others complain that this is illogical — "you and me" is the subject, so it should be "you and I". (Grammar is not logic, cf. French "vous et moi" not "vous et je"; but never mind.)
3. Chastened, some people say or write things like "between you and I".
4. Others then complain that "you and I" is the complement of between, so it should be "you and me".
5. Result: people like Mr. Walker, who have never been taught to recognize subject or complements or any other grammatical entities, enter a state of nervous cluelessness about how to choose between I and me in any case where doubt might arise, and even in many cases where there should never have been any doubt at all.
The second reason is the strange prescriptivist animus against conjunctive like, e.g. "Some people prune English roses like they do Hybrid Teas". The description below is summarized from the account in MWDEU:
1. Like has been used conjunctively (i.e. to introduce a subordinate clause) since the 14th century, by Chaucer, Shakespeare, Keats, Dickens, Shaw, etc.
2. At some point, this became controversial. Noah Webster's 1790 list of "improper and vulgar expressions" included "He thinks like you do"; Tennyson corrected Prince Albert for using conjunctive like; Henry Alford said conjunctive like was "quite indefensible"; and Strunk & White scorned it as "widely misused by the illiterate", and "taken up by the knowing … who use it as if they were slumming".
3. This attitude requires banning (what previously were) perfectly standard and commonplace uses (Winston Churchill: "We were overrun by them, like the Australians were by rabbits").
4. No fault is thereby found with like <noun-phrase>; but the prescription against the standard and still-common instances of conjunctive like leaves the Walkers of the world in a state of nervous cluelessness about any use of like at all.
Mr. Walker reads "I don't think everyone should write like me", and thinks (or pretends to think?), "Wait, isn't there something wrong with that?"