Like so many…

by jimwood8

There’s this expression like so many PLURAL NOUN in some varieties of English that I’ve never understood; meaning, I literally don’t process it, even if I know what they speaker is saying. Some examples from the web:

Though we are living in the age of the indie-rock reunion, one has to wonder if, like so many trees falling in forests, if a band reunites in Cleveland does anyone know? (source)

Watching skyscrapers swaying back and forth during the quake like so many trees, was proof that the engineers had found the right design for the job. (source)

When I first came across this, it was in a “creative non-fiction” writing class in college, when we were asked to read each other’s work and offer critique and suggestions. I highlighted this phrase and told the author that it didn’t make any sense. It was an honest mistake on my part: I still don’t process this construction. Something just doesn’t “link up” syntactically for me.