The news left me like a fool.

What does it mean? Is the grammar ok here?

[Originally asked by birdman1234]

  • What can not be okay with grammar here? You probably mean the semantics, nothing about grammar. – Kris Jan 24 '14 at 8:14
  • 3
    The news could have been wiser in not leaving you in the first place, I understand. – Kris Jan 24 '14 at 8:14
  • Personally I don't like the phrase much, it is one of those darn idiom-like things that stick around, that really shouldn't have. I'd just come up something new. "The news made a fool out of me." Or if your twisting the phrase a bit, "The news left me like a love-struck fool." <--Note this is still ambiguous. – Guest Jan 24 '14 at 18:22

The sentence is semantically incorrect. Although used often, especially in song texts, the more correct version of your specific sentence would be without the "like" or with a word such as standing or feeling:

The news left me a fool

The news left me standing/feeling like a fool

Merriam-Webster: leave

to cause or allow to be or remain in a specified condition leave the door open, his manner left me cold

In your example

The news left me flabbergasted

I read your sentence as:

When I got the news, it affected me so much, I was left looking/feeling like a fool.

| improve this answer | |
  • This is true, but the like alters things. – Andrew Leach Jan 24 '14 at 9:11
  • I'd go for "feeling like a fool" I suppose you could look foolish but it's more likely you feel foolish or you feel like a fool. Might "The news left me feeling foolish" be more appropriate? – Mari-Lou A Jan 24 '14 at 10:11
  • Perhaps, perhaps not. Left with open mouth and snot running down the face. Astonishment as in flabbergasted goes with a certain look in my mind – mplungjan Jan 24 '14 at 10:16

What the sentence immediately appears to be doing is likening the news to a fool, which is grammatically correct but semantically dubious.

Compare a similar sentence:

The punch hit me like a bullet.

There is a large ellipsis — “would hit me” could be added to the end. But it is obvious that it is the punch which is being likened to a bullet, not me.

In order that what is after like refers to me, another verb needs to be added:

The punch had me reeling like a drunkard.

Swapping the metaphors around makes nonsense, or at least, changes the meaning rather dramatically:

The punch hit me like a drunkard.
The punch had me reeling like a bullet.

Now, one can mangle all sort of things with poetic licence1, and it’s just about possible to [grudgingly] accept that the original sentence might be likening me to a fool, simply because news cannot be: that makes no sense at all. The same applies to my last two sentences: with some effort, they can be untangled. But ideally there would be more context which established that form of language.

As a bare sentence on its own, in order to be semantically correct, it's grammatically dubious.

1 Perhaps the anapaestic rhythm in like a fool is necessary.

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  • I do not see any of the suggestions have anything to do with the question – mplungjan Jan 24 '14 at 9:43
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    "What the sentence immediately appears to be doing is likening the news to a fool" – Andrew Leach Jan 24 '14 at 9:52
  • "The news left me like a fool would?" that makes no sense at all. – mplungjan Jan 24 '14 at 9:53
  • Exactly. That's what the answer explains. – Andrew Leach Jan 24 '14 at 9:55
  • But The news left me flabbergasted or The news left me (for) a fool does. – mplungjan Jan 24 '14 at 10:02

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