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Who-whom smackdown

Pop over to Visual Thesaurus for a point/counterpoint on the survival of whom, but don’t expect much in the way of fireworks between Professor Arnold Zwicky and me, craven defeatist and fellow-traveler of linguists that I am.

The comments, particularly those from the readers who have difficulty in identifying humor, even when it is labeled as such, provide the fun.



Posted by John McIntyre at 8:23 AM | | Comments (5)


Isn't "who are you" the correct form, anyways? If you flip it around--you are who--isn't the correct form a predicate nominative (who) because of the presence of a form of the verb to be (or what we used to call copulative verbs when I was in school)?

Nice essay, John. My conclusion from the comments: The disappearance of "whom" is far less lamentable than the disappearance of people able to read (and understand) Thurber. Come back, Dave Barry, and remind them that joking about usage is OK!

The confusion sprang from the fact that most of those people didn't comprehend the word "burlesque" as a verb.

Good stuff, though it's a pity that so few of us read Thurber these days.

I don't have strong feelings about "who" and "whom" (except in speaking, where "whom" sounds stilted unless it follows a preposition), but I do wish someone would drive a stake through the heart of "whomever," which I see just about every week in edited prose, and always where traditional usage would be "whoever."

I received my first loan when I was not very old and that helped me very much. However, I need the college loan once more time.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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