Monday, February 1, 2010

What I Hate About Whom ...

Lately, every "whom" I see seems so unnatural to me. Right, wrong -- it doesn't matter. It still takes me out of the writing.

Of course, if I were the editor, I definitely would have used "whom" here -- just because you get so much guff if you don't. But still ...

Bookmark and Share


LL Blackwell said...

Ooh! They "fixed" it (i.e. made it less obnoxious) on the Web site:,0,4910675.story

(where, I guess, space is not an issue)

June Casagrande said...

Ooh. Good catch.

Yeah, "Who is to blame" is a great solution -- but it requires more space.

Headline writing is so hard. Glad I don't have to do it much anymore.

Joy-Mari Cloete said...

Perhaps you don't like it because it's [the 'whom'] at the beginning of the sentence?

Stan said...

I think it's likely to have all but disappeared within a generation or two, except in certain formal contexts and set phrases. Did you see Visual Thesaurus's usage showdown on the subject?

June Casagrande said...

Interesting discussion at that link. And it caused me to realize something I hadn't noticed before: In my little world, it seems that "whom" is pretty much dead as the object of a transitive verb ("There's the man who you kissed") But it's holding on better as the object of prepositions: "I'm going out." "Oh, with whom?"

Still, debates like this tend to bum me out because there's so much focus on the prescriptivist vs. descriptivist positions ("whom is proper" vs. "you can't fight the tides of time, honey"), but there's too little focus on the average person who doesn't care about the academic arguments for right and wrong -- he just wants to know what the world (his boss, his in-laws, his colleagues, etc.) expects of him.

No one wants to help that poor dude. Everyone would just rather play expert.

(Sorry. You caught me at a blood-sugar low. So I'm kinda cranky/bleak.)

Joel said...

I still prefer "whom" as object--and I'm not intimidated by any of that descriptivist propaganda. ;-) But, uh, seriously.

I just wish folks would stop using "whom" as subject. Yeah, I work with some of them. Same category as those who use "I" as object, as far as I'm concerned. God bless 'em. They "learned" a rule at some point and, damn it, they're not giving it up.

June Casagrande said...

Yeah, it's that "not giving it up" mentality that can get 'em.

I remember working at newspapers where the editors had no problem handling "whom" in a single-clause sentence like: "They asked him whom he confronted." But they couldn't handle two-clause sentences like: "They told him to confront whoever robbed him." They would always put "whomever" in that position because they didn't understand that the second clause needs a subject.

That's why I tell people that, unless you know how to whom in every situation, you might just want to avoid it.


Bookmark and Share