This context comes from the 2007 movie "Zodiac" by David Fincher.

Captain Cross:"..I also told him we don't think this was Zodiac. We have a guy we like for it. Don't have enough to make it stick yet, but we're pretty sure it's him."

A similar sentence appeared later in the movie

Tosci: "For now. If we get something, Mulanax will take it to the Vallejo DA to search the house properly. We also talked to the cop who interviewed Allen before. Doesn't remember how he got onto him but said he didn't look like a killer, so he didn't like him for Z."

Is this just the common meaning of "like" meaning (to wish to have: as in would like a drink(Merriam-Webster)) or is there something else at play here?

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    It seems to mean 'think him a likely suspect'. Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 17:01
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    It's a fairly uncommon usage, but security officers (cops, etc.) use it more than most native speakers. Don't draw any inferences from like = similar or likely = probably. It's like = favour [the idea that he did Z] Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 18:06
  • @FumbleFingers - UK cops say (at least they do in TV dramas and novels) things like 'I fancy him for that bank job in Croydon last week'. Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 18:36
  • @MichaelHarvey: Yeah - I think that's a US/UK usage distinction (for cops, at least). In BrE another common context is I fancy Red Rum for the 3:30 at Goodwood [racetrack], but I have the impression Americans don't use fancy much for this sense, so perhaps they're more likely to say I like Sea Biscuit for the Kentucky Derby. Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 19:16
  • @FumbleFingers - the night before the 1977 Grand National, I had a very vivid dream that Red Rum would win (for the third time!). On the way home the following morning, having cashed my unemployment cheque, I passed a bookmaker's shop, offering 10-1. I was (and am) not a gambler, but I thought of putting some money on him, however I decided it would be irrational to trust a dream. My first wife was 9 and a half months pregnant at the time, and I think, even if I had come home with a fat wad of banknotes, she would not have been pleased. Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 19:59

1 Answer 1


It's "TV cop-speak", also used in the UK - which is quite rare for this type of slang.

To "like" someone for something is to feel they may be the culprit. The cops think they did it, but they don't yet have sufficient evidence to charge. Someone at some point in the script might say they have a 'gut feeling', which is a similar idea.

I think the etymology is simple, if tortured.
I like ice cream.
I like this horse in the three o'clock.
I like him for the crime.

They're all extrapolations of the same base idea.

  • I understand everything you wrote but could you tell me if "tortured" in your comments means:3. to twist into a grotesque form??? Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 23:56
  • Really, just 'stretched' until it fits. Commented Apr 8, 2023 at 6:23
  • DoneWithThis, I couldn't find a definition for "tortured" with the meaning of "stretch" except in the context of doe being kneaded but I found this definition "to distort or pervert (language, meaning, etc.)." Is it a correct definition for what you mean? Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 10:52
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    It's in the ballpark. You just have to bear in mind that natives rarely look up familiar words in a dictionary - we go with a 'feel' for what works in any given situation. Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 16:22

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