CURTAINS for WHOM
Most of my love ‘em or leave ‘em posts are dedicated to common grammatical errors that I’d hate to see gain enough traction to become “right”.
That is, I’d choose to leave ‘em. . .
But occasionally, I must profess my love for a few of these improper rogues.
Case in point: the comfy who vs. the highfalutin’ and snootin’ whom.
I’m guilty of using who instead of whom 100% of the time. There is not one instance that I can ever recall saying the word whom in my 42 years on this planet. And I probably haven’t written it since my college entry essay back in 1988.
The rule for who/m is logical enough. Who and whom are relative pronouns – they relate to the subject and the direct object. Bob (subject) saw Mary (object). He saw her. In the question “Who saw her?”, who relates to the subject (Bob). In the question “Whom did Bob see?”, whom relates to the object (her). Who saw whom? Bob saw Mary.
To complicate matters further, it’s technically incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition, so “Who are you giving that apple to?” should really be “To whom are you giving that apple?” But really, who would ever say that?
Jiminy Cricket, it’s confusing – and no surprise that whom has declined in general usage. At this point no one under the age of eighty can utter the word without sounding like:
- a pompous ass, or
- faux British aristocracy
You’re not likely to hear “Excuse me, driver, to whom should I pay my bus fare?” the next time you experience public transit.
Faux pompous asses aside, I predict whom will be obsolete by 2030, and we will cling nostalgic to a few iconic phrases reminding us of those bygone days. Certainly no one will re-title Papa’s masterpiece. And whom would dare alter the old standby “To Whom it May Concern”?
Do you use whom? Love it or leave it?