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Prose Parade
Grammar and writing basics

A Rant About Who/Whom

I hate the word whom. I think it’s clumsy, and no one knows how to use it. Last night, on one of the ubiquitous Law & Order repeats I heard Sam Waterston use it incorrectly.

One of the problems with who/whom is that unlike most of the English language “whom” has a case ending somewhat like the Romance languages. English is not a Romance language. If you get right down to it, English is a mutt.

The case ending means whom is used as an objective. For instance: For whom the bell tolls. See, it’s the object of the preposition “for.”

OK, that’s how it’s supposed to be used. It isn’t; it’s slaughtered. Very few people know how to use it, and so, I recommend we banish it to the heap of archaic language. Let’s just use “who” for everything.

“Who” in all cases works just fine and communicates orally and on paper. The language then is left with the irregular case endings of personal pronouns (I, me, he, she, it, etc.), which we can’t ever get rid of because they’re so ingrained and have no substitutes.

So, fling caution to the winds and stick your chin out (don’t you love the metaphor mixture) and say and write “who.”

« Affect/Effect – Me/I »

December 9, 2009 um 12:41 pm
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  1. Laurie Perry

    Boy, do I disagree! First off, “whom” is not only an object, it also has a nominative function. (Don’t you just love English usage terms? People get doctorates for making this stuff up.) Second, discarding usages because people routinely get them wrong would just put us out of work! Times are tough enough as it is. Besides, I think it’s good for me to have to pull out my Garner’s Modern American Usage and study it every time I need to figure out whether “who” or “whom” is correct.

    #1 Comment vom 23. November 2010 um 9:56 am

  2. admin

    I don’t want to get rid of it just because everyone gets it wrong even though I said I did. I want to get rid of it because it sounds awful, and it’s a leftover from a previous version of English. There are times when making English more regular is desirable. Laurie, I’m surprised at you. You know I’d never want to get rid of a word just because everyone gets it wrong.

    #2 Comment vom 27. November 2010 um 4:37 pm

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