“Whom” is on the way out. Most people who concern themselves with the English language agree that this stilted-sounding word has been pretty much entirely supplanted by “who,” no matter how “who” is used.
So what? Almost nobody says “whom” in everyday speech and, increasingly, it’s giving way to “who” in everyday writing as well. Good riddance.
But, using a recently published comic strip that plays on the difference between “who” and “whom,” there’s a point to be made about how people can look foolish when they inadvertently use words incorrectly when they write.
The strip (“Prickly City” by Scott Stantis) features Kevin, the Lost Bunny of the Apocalypse, and his wife. In part, the dialogue goes this way:
Kevin’s wife: “This conversation is over, Kevin. I’m running for your senate seat, and you’re going to let me have it.”
Kevin: “Says who?”
Kevin’s wife: “Whom.”
Kevin’s wife: “Whom. Says whom.”
Unfortunately, Kevin’s version is right, and his wife’s is wrong, but that doesn’t seem to be part of the joke. The consequences are distraction for anyone who catches the error and a bump in the road to the punch line, which is in the next frame. The cartoon loses some of its effect.
This might seem like quibbling, but anything that distracts a reader from the point the writer is trying to make weakens the message. This is why grammar and language usage are important.
The upshot: “Who” and “whom” might not be a problem much longer, but there are plenty of other stumbling blocks in the world of the written word to trip over. A professional writer should recognize and be able to handle them. A good editor and proofreader can also help prevent embarrassment.
Addendum: Writers should also beware of silly grammar and usage rules, such as:
• Never end a sentence with a preposition
• Never start a sentence with a conjunction (and, or, but, etc.)
• Never split an infinitive (to do, to see, to go, etc.)
These rules aren’t really rules at all, more just hobby horses for the creatively impaired. They’re bunk.