Don't give a hoot about whom?
Writing letters to the editor to complain that the newspaper is illiterate is a common, if harmless, hobby. A few years ago, The Sun printed a letter from a reader complaining about two points in an article on grammar:
… I was dismayed to see Jonathan R. Freeman, their teacher, quoted twice saying “kids that …” when it should be “kids who.” Kids, in his statement, are people, not goats.
Moreover, a direct quote from Mr. Freeman’s book, “this is where we begin to despise whoever invented English,” should be to despise “whomever.” The pronoun is the object of the preposition; therefore, the objective case is needed.
The first point, that kids should be reserved for young goats, is a giveaway of the writer’s age. That particular shibboleth was still being taught in the 1950s and even 1960s. Today kids for children is freely used by professional educators as well as by civilians.
But the interesting part, the one I hope you noticed, is that the second complaint, about whoever, is dead wrong. Whoever invented English is a clause, and the pronoun is the subject of it. The entire clause is the object of—not a preposition—the infinitive to despise.
When I said yesterday on Maryland Morning that the who/whom distinction is one to consider abandoning, Sheilah Kast blurted, “Oh no!” But the stickler who wrote that letter to the editor got confused over it. One of my former colleagues at The Sun, an able editor, had to ask me about who/whom constructions frequently. And even people who use the pronouns correctly often have to pause in mid-sentence to work out which one is appropriate.
I put it to you that if literate people, for whom she/her and they/them pose no mysteries, can’t automatically and reliably choose between who and whom, it is well past time to relax our attention to that matter and concentrate on graver solecisms.