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Posted: 02 November 2019 05:08 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Is the word whom soon to disappear from our language? It seems so according to Grammar Errors:

“These two words must be a couple of the trickiest ones in the English language. It seems as if no speakers, and only some writers, know how to use who and whom correctly. In fact, whom doesn’t even exist in some people’s vocabularies, and it appears to be a word that is quickly disappearing from the English language.”

https://www.grammarerrors.com/grammar/whowhom/

I could not find anything on this here.

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Posted: 02 November 2019 07:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Merriam-Webster sums the who/whom issue up nicely:

Observers of the language have been predicting the demise of whom from about 1870 down to the present day. 

one of the pronoun cases is visibly disappearing—the objective case whom — R. G. White (1870)

whom is dying out in England, where “Whom did you see?” sounds affected — Anthony Burgess (1980)

Our evidence shows that no one—English or not—should expect whom to disappear momentarily; it shows every indication of persisting quite a while yet. Actual usage of who and whom—accurately described at the entries in this dictionary—does not appear to be markedly different from the usage of Shakespeare’s time. But the 18th century grammarians, propounding rules and analogies, rejecting other rules and analogies, and usually justifying both with appeals to Latin or Greek, have intervened between us and Shakespeare. It seems clear that the grammarians’ rules have had little effect on the traditional uses. One thing they have accomplished is to encourage hypercorrect uses of whom

whom shall I say is calling? 

Another is that they have made some people unsure of themselves. 

said he was asked to step down, although it is not known exactly who or whom asked him — Redding (Conn.) Pilot

American Heritage doesn’t directly discuss whether or not whom fading from use, but says:

Despite the traditional grammatical distinctions outlined above, in practice whom is uncommon in speech and everyday writing because it has a formal tone. In informal contexts, who often replaces whom, as in Who does the actor support? or I despise the governor who the actor supports. (A common workaround for the problematic choice between formal whom and grammatically questionable who is to replace the relative pronoun with that, converting the governor whom the actor supports into the governor that the actor supports, or to omit it altogether, yielding the governor the actor supports.) Whom survives as the standard form when it is the grammatical object of a preposition that immediately precedes it, as in the governor for whom (not for who) the actor campaigned.

The OED does not explicitly opine on the issue, but you can look at the chronological entries.

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Posted: 02 November 2019 11:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I don’t get the “affected” or “formal” tone, but I can understand why some might take it that way. I think a lot of that is the lack of understanding the usage.

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Posted: 02 November 2019 04:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I just heard today on a YouTube video a selection from Stephen Fry’s comedy show QI in which one of the comedians said, “Knock, Knock” and Stephen said, “Who’s there?” The comedian said, “To” and Fry responded “To who.” and the comedian responded, “To whom!”

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Posted: 02 November 2019 07:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Eyehawk - 02 November 2019 05:08 AM

and it appears to be a word that is quickly disappearing from the English language.

I’m going to say it’s probably not going to disappear soon.

Obviously it’s less common than it was a hundred years ago but its use does not appear to be in decline.

googlebooksngram

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Posted: 03 November 2019 05:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Thurber on “Who and Whom”:

The number of people who use “whom” and “who” wrongly is appalling. The problem is a difficult one and it is complicated by the importance of tone, or taste. Take the common expression, “Whom are you, anyways?” That is of course, strictly speaking, correct – and yet how formal, how stilted! The usage to be preferred in ordinary speech and writing is “Who are you, anyways?” “Whom” should be used in the nominative case only when a note of dignity or austerity is desired. For example, if a writer is dealing with a meeting of, say, the British Cabinet, it would be better to have the Premier greet a new arrival, such as an under-secretary, with a “Whom are you, anyways?” rather than a “Who are you, anyways?” – always granted that the Premier is sincerely unaware of the man’s identity. To address a person one knows by a “Whom are you?” is a mark either of incredible lapse of memory or inexcusable arrogance. “How are you?” is a much kindlier salutation.

The Buried Whom, as it is called, forms a special problem. That is where the word occurs deep in a sentence. For a ready example, take the common expression: “He did not know whether he knew her or not because he had not heard whom the other had said she was until too late to see her.” The simplest way out of this is to abandon the “whom” altogether and substitute “where” (a reading of the sentence that way will show how much better it is). Unfortunately, it is only in rare cases that “where” can be used in place of “whom.” Nothing could be more flagrantly bad, for instance, than to say “Where are you?” in demanding a person’s identity. The only conceivable answer is “Here I am,” which would give no hint at all as to whom the person was. Thus the conversation, or piece of writing, would, from being built upon a false foundation, fall of its own weight.

A common rule for determining whether “who” or “whom” is right is to substitute “she” for “who,” and “her” for “whom,” and see which sounds the better. Take the sentence, “He met a woman who they said was an actress.” Now if “who” is correct then “she” can be used in its place. Let us try it. “He met a woman she they said was an actress.” That instantly rings false. It can’t be right. Hence the proper usage is “whom.”

In certain cases grammatical correctness must often be subordinated to a consideration of taste. For instance, suppose that the same person had met a man whom they said was a street cleaner. The word “whom” is too austere to use in connection with a lowly worker, like a street-cleaner, and its use in this form is known as False Administration or Pathetic Fallacy.

You might say: “There is, then, no hard and fast rule?” ("was then” would be better, since “then” refers to what is past). You might better say (or have said): “There was then (or is now) no hard and fast rule?” Only this, that it is better to use “whom” when in doubt, and even better to re-word the statement, and leave out all the relative pronouns, except ad, ante, con, in , inter, ob, post, prae, pro, sub, and super.

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Posted: 03 November 2019 05:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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(I suppose I should add, for clarification, that the Thurber quote is humor.  Sigh...)

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Posted: 04 November 2019 07:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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For a couple of years I’ve wanted to point out the grammatical error in those paw print-shaped stickers that say “Who Rescued Who?” but I haven’t found the right audience yet.  Of course, using the grammatically correct phrase in this case would probably seem odd to the average person and would distract from the message.

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Posted: 05 November 2019 05:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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There is no grammatical error.  It is perfectly grammatical in modern English.  The fact that pronouns were used differently a century or more ago is irrelevant, unless you want to also start classifying plural “you” as ungrammatical.  Wottest thou of what I speak?

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Posted: 05 November 2019 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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If it was ever ungrammatical. The OED has the objective who going back to the 15th century. Shakespeare used it.

[ Edited: 06 November 2019 01:11 PM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 05 November 2019 08:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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There is no grammatical error.  It is perfectly grammatical in modern English.

If it was every ungrammatical. The OED has the objective who going back to the 15th century. Shakespeare used it.

Well it looks like I still haven’t found the right audience.  I’m still gonna try it, though, someday.  I’m no Stephen Fry, but if he can get away with a knock-knock joke I’m pretty sure I can pull this off even if I only get groans.  I set the bar pretty low.

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Posted: 05 November 2019 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Dave Wilton - 05 November 2019 06:45 AM

If it was every ungrammatical. The OED has the objective who going back to the 15th century. Shakespeare used it.

But in the 15th Century English grammar rules were nonexistent. During Shakespeare’s time grammar rules were at its inchoate stage and Shakespeare rarely adhered to grammatical constructions.  Shakespeare also did not use the structured rule, subject, verb, object. “Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.” In present day English we would expect, “Thou has much offended thy father Hamlet.”

I don’t understand why we refer to Shakespeare’s archaic word usage when it doesn’t apply to modern English.

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Posted: 05 November 2019 07:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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But in the 15th Century English grammar rules were nonexistent. During Shakespeare’s time grammar rules were at its inchoate stage and Shakespeare rarely adhered to grammatical constructions. 

That’s nonsensical. Of course Shakespeare’s writing is grammatical. If it wasn’t, it would be just a bunch of meaningless noises. And they did have written rules of grammar. Shakespeare attended a grammar school in his youth. Of course, that grammar was largely based on Latin grammar—in Love’s Labour Lost, the character of Holofernes is a pedantic grammarian.

Shakespeare also did not use the structured rule, subject, verb, object. “Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.” In present day English we would expect, “Thou has much offended thy father Hamlet.”

Of course he did. The Hamlet in both of these phrasings is a vocative, indicating who the subject (thou) refers to. The core of the clause, thou has offended your father, is a very standard SVO clause. (And in present-day English, we would expect Hamlet, you have offended your father, not Hamlet thou hast thy father offended.)

Expanding on the above:

To say that Shakespeare’s speech is ungrammatical is not even wrong; it’s inane. In the example, thou hast the -st ending is a second-person singular familiar ending. Shakespeare would not have written thou have. He did, however, write you have on many occasions. That’s the usual sixteenth-century form for the second-person singular formal (and the second-person plural). That’s grammar.

And if the argument is that they didn’t have grammar manuals back then, that’s wrong too. Grammar manuals for English date to the tenth century.

[ Edited: 06 November 2019 06:48 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 06 November 2019 03:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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jtab4994 - 05 November 2019 08:10 AM

There is no grammatical error.  It is perfectly grammatical in modern English.

If it was every ungrammatical. The OED has the objective who going back to the 15th century. Shakespeare used it.

Well it looks like I still haven’t found the right audience.  I’m still gonna try it, though, someday.  I’m no Stephen Fry, but if he can get away with a knock-knock joke I’m pretty sure I can pull this off even if I only get groans.  I set the bar pretty low.

So you mean your objection is a joke?

idgi

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Posted: 06 November 2019 08:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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OP Tipping - 06 November 2019 03:21 AM

So you mean your objection is a joke?

idgi

Yeah, I guess I didn’t make that clear.  I’m not going to go knocking on Subaru windows telling people they have a grammatically incorrect paw-print sticker.  It would have to be somebody I know, and who would be aware that “who” and “whom” were treated differently according to tradition.

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Posted: 06 November 2019 10:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Reminds me of the Johnny Carson game show from the late 50s, “Who do you trust?” when someone pointed out the (supposed) grammar error they used it in an advertising blitz.

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