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March 25, 2013

To Whom It May Concern; Is Whom Dead?

Of all the personal pronouns, 'whom' seems to be the one that...

...is most likely to disappear in the next few years.

When I review personal pronouns, (I, me, he, she, we, us, it, you, etc) I usually ask my students how often they use the personal pronoun 'whom'.

Their response is almost always a blank look that I interpret as something like "Whom? Who ever uses 'whom'?"

And I make a point of reminding them that I virtually never use 'whom'. In fact, for the most part, the only time I use it is as an introduction in a bland official letter. And even then I only use it, at most, once a year.

I also tell my students that if they use 'who' in place of 'whom' virtually no one will notice and even if they did notice, almost no one will care.

Here's a link from Atlantic Magazine which explores the dynamics behind the neglect, and likely demise of this particular word. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/for-whom-the-bell-tolls/309266/.

Perhaps there's some justice in the death of 'whom', after all, if people don't even notice a word, perhaps it's time to move on.

There are plenty of new words out there, and some words, like 'you' do double duty (as in being both singular and plural). I think 'who' can competently manage the nuances traditionally held by 'whom'.

Be sure to send us any words or phrases that puzzle you, and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing, constantly shifting linguistic landscape.

Morf

Posted by mmorf at March 25, 2013 10:50 PM

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