Thursday, September 3, 2009

Copy Edit du Jour

I follow many Twitter users whom I think give great advice

changed to:

I follow many Twitter users who I think give great advice

* * *

For those of you who, like the writer, find this one a little confusing, the need for a subject pronoun here is best illustrated with the choice: "I think THEM give great advice" versus "I think THEY give great advice." Cleary, the action of giving in that clause needs a subject, and "who," like "they," is a subject form.

So if I can so easily understand that, why am I still completely baffled by the Twitter phenomenon? Why would anyone care that I'm changing the cats' water or watching "Family Guy" reruns?

You know, back in my day, we had complete social disconnectedness -- and we liked it!

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Linnee said...

Ah...this is one of my pet peeves. Sometimes I think "whom" and "whomever" should just be eliminated.
But "For Who the Bell Tolls" would kill me.

I am drinking a diet Coke.

June Casagrande said...

Yeah, I think that sometimes, too. Of course, it's quite possible that time will take care of that for us, and render the tolling bell to a lovely antiquated "Where for art thou" status.

I'm trying not to finish the 7-Up on my desk because I'm a little too sugared out today.

Blackwell said...

Dude! I just taught the difference between who/whom yesterday! Hopefully there are now 105 more people in this world who know the difference, but I got a lot of blank stares when I told them about subject/object thing. Then we talked about the they/them thing, and they seemed to get it.

Although I'm also convinced that my higher level students are going to start throwing more "whom's" into their writing, trying to sound more intelligent. Goody.

June Casagrande said...

What a neat thing to be a teacher. Just to think that, because of you, there are 105 more people in the world who know anything -- from who shot Alexander Hamilton to the fact that a water molecule looks like Mickey Mouse. That's pretty cool.

But you also illustrate the danger of knowledge. Show me 105 kids who just learned the difference between "who" and "whom" and I'll show you at least one or two future grammar snobs.

Ah, dangerous knowledge!

8'FED said...

Talk of "the" difference between who and whom makes me a bit uncomfortable - the definite article doesn't HAVE to mean that it boils down to a single difference that we all agree on, but it all too easily conveys that impression.

As we know, the subject/object rule only works one way. You should never use "whom" as an object, but nobody whose brain and body both occupy the same century will tell you that you should never use "who" as an object. It's a historical thing. The difference started out as subject vs object, but nowadays "whom" is used pretty much only for the object of prepositions (to whom, for whom, with whom, etc). There are also a few differences between dialects, for example apparently there are a few places remaining in Darkest America where the word "whomever", extinct elsewhere, lives on.

And THAT brings me to the story of an online grammar quiz that once made me really annoyed. The quiz boasted about how its authors were not prescriptivists and how its answers were all backed up with references to online dictionaries and so on, but on closer examination this turned out to be pure hypocrisy. It's one thing to make silly claims about grammar, and another to back them up with references that don't even say what you claim they say. In this case, the quiz had the audacity to claim that "whoever" is sometimes incorrect, but the references provided were only about who vs whom and didn't even MENTION what happens if you stick "-ever" on the end. The quiz writers simply assumed that it doesn't make any difference.

June Casagrande said...

That quiz story is really interesting. It's fascinating how people resist truth when it comes to grammar. If someone told me that water molecules sometimes have two hydrogen atoms and four oxygen, then they opened up a bunch of textbooks and proved it, I would find it a little hard to process, but I wouldn't resist it. I wouldn't say, "I don't accept that."

People's resistance to grammar myth-busting is so weird. I wonder how that happened. Did they not even bother to read the dictionary entries they linked to? Or did they just read into them whatever they wanted? Strange.


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