1 Nov 2009

More evidence of the death of “whom”

Posted by dumpendebat

Even the New York Times, America’s newspaper of record, has lost the ability to get the who/whom distinction right. Here’s a sentence from an article in today’s Sunday Book Review section:

Rand, whose books are full of masterful, sexually dominating heroes, quickly fell in love with this confused boy, whom she decided was the “intellectual heir” she had been waiting for.

If you’re ever confused about when to use who and when to use whom, use the “he/him-substitution” method.

Who = subject = HE
Whom = object = HIM

You can see where the author of this book review went wrong if you use this “he/him” method.

Take the clause where the author went astray: whom she decided was the “intellectual heir” she had been waiting for.

First, see if “who” would work. Try substituting “he” for “who”:

(1) She decided he was the "intellectual heir" she had been waiting for.

That looks and sounds like good English. So far, so good. No problem with who.

Next, try substituting “him” for “whom,” and look what happens:

(2) *She decided him was the "intellectual heir" she had been waiting for.

Yikes! That’s not how we say it in English, readers. That’s ungrammatical.

“Him was the intellectual heir” is obviously ungrammatical. Thus, you can’t say “she fell in love with this boy… whom she decided was the intellectual heir.” No, “she fell in love with this boy… who she decided was the intellectual heir.”

Whom is worthless, readers. We don’t need it in English anymore. It’s a relic of the long-ago days when English still had a functioning case system.

Even college-educated native speakers of English have trouble using whom correctly. This is OK — whom serves no purpose. It’s a relic. It would be all for the best if we would just let whom die a natural death, like it would have done hundreds of years ago if left to its own devices. But it hangs on artificially, deployed almost randomly on occasions when someone is consciously trying to write or speak in a “formal” register.

Notice, too, how the author of the book review had no compunction whatsoever about ending that sentence with a preposition. That’s good, that’s healthy. That’s how people use English in real life. Most educated speakers of English understand that “never end a sentence with a preposition” was always a very silly, arbitrary “rule” (a “rule” that was dragged screaming into English from Latin grammar, no less), and it no longer raises eyebrows when we ignore that ridiculous “rule” even on semi-formal occasions (such as a NYT book review).

But here, the author was so afraid that who might be “wrong” that he fell victim to hypercorrection and stuck in whom instead.

It’s time to say goodbye to whom, a relic that has long since outlived its usefulness.

Subscribe to Comments

3 Responses to “More evidence of the death of “whom””

  1. Merry Christmas, Filius!

    ‘Stram’

     

    Stram

  2. And the same to you, Stram.

     

    dumpendebat

  3. I cannot help that hearing it used improperly makes my skin crawl. I wish I could. Not having ‘whom’ would just feel so wrong. I do not wish to imply that my grammar is beyond reproach. Quite simply, I enjoy the rules of our language and wish that we would follow them more often. For that matter, I wish IT would follow them more often as well! (‘i’ before ‘e’, indeed?!)

    Also, I find myself in a perpetual state of redaction with regard to ending a sentence with a preposition. Often, the rewording thereof makes me sound kind of pretentious, but, I find, I prefer that to the alternative.

    …and we should bring back thou. Without which I tend to revert to my southern roots for distinction… y’all!

     

    TheMailPO

  4. These are in fact enormous ideas in regarding blogging.
    You have touched some pleasant factors here. Any way keep up wrinting.

     

    plenty of fish dating site of free dating

  5. I really like it when people get together and share thoughts.
    Great website, continue the good work!

     

    plenty of fish dating site of free dating

  6. Hi there, everything is going sound here and ofcourse every one is sharing information, that’s in fact fine, keep
    up writing.

     

    Www.krogerfeedback.com

  7. Very good article. I am facing some of these issues as well..

     

    Kroger Feedback

  8. If you want to improve your know-how simply keep visiting this web page and be updated with the latest information posted here.

     

    krogerfeedback.com

  9. Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this
    site before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new
    to me. Anyways, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back frequently!

     

    kroger feedback survey

  10. After I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify
    me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time
    a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment.
    Perhaps there is a means you can remove me from that service?
    Cheers!

     

    cheapest quest Bar

  • Browse

    or
  • Older DPF Archives

  • Post Categories

  • Twitter @dumpendebat

    • Egyptians Denounce President Sisi in Biggest Rally in 2 Years https://t.co/3fFzfYy1c5 #Egypt
    • #SaudiArabia Warns of Economic Fallout if Congress Passes 9/11 Bill https://t.co/kENSz4FtC9 #KSA #WarOnTerror
    • Japanese McDonald's workers demonstrating for a living wage, 15 April 2016. #Tokyo #Japan #fightfor15 #solidarity https://t.co/tJxXEoz8a6
    • #Ghana president makes no-panic plea over terror threat memo https://t.co/6RTZF5DU1a
    • Le prĂ©sident malien IBK se remet de l'opĂ©ration d'une tumeur en France https://t.co/n45kINsUqr #Mali
    • Op-ed: Average North Koreans will be hit hardest by sanctions https://t.co/TjdXJoFYpp #NorthKorea
    • US, #Philippines Conduct Joint Patrols In South China Sea https://t.co/9fVxO0TB5t
    • Missing Nigerian girls identified in new video as calls renew to find them https://t.co/65G4ortWwA #Nigeria #BringBackOurGirls
    • #Philippines rejects Islamic State's claim it killed 100 troops https://t.co/d1sWYmQP3q #ISIS
    • #ISIS is making inroads in the #Philippines and the implications for Asia are alarming https://t.co/Q2VOxnPuOn
  • Meta

Bear