grammar (again!)


“A documentary that aired on Britain’s Channel 4 two weeks ago generated news about how much sex — or not so much — Charles and Diana were having as their marriage cratered, mostly because Charles could not get over his one true love, Camilla Parker-Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall, who he later married.”

— “Princes William and Harry are all grown up, and their mother would be proud,” by Karla Adam and William Booth, The Washington Post, August 28, 2017



These two reporters do not know that it should be WHOM he later married.

If, like me, you were carefully taught the eight parts of speech in elementary school, you would have learned that there are such things as PRONOUNS; for example, the pronoun who and its variant form whom.

This would have enabled you (as it did me) to better understand how language works. A pronoun such as who when it is a subject is who, but when it is an object, it becomes whom. Elementary, my dear Watson! So we were taught by prim fussy schoolmarms eons ago. (Don’t ask me to explain why this type of variation – in spelling – occurs with pronouns and not nouns.)

But now, it’s considered to be too much to ask schoolchildren to be taxed with such lessons. And, it also seems to be considered a waste of time.

I would be willing to bet that a lot of schoolteachers nowadays don’t know the parts of speech themselves, or how they function.


— Roger W. Smith

   August 29, 2017

5 thoughts on “grammar (again!)

  1. Carol Hay

    “Prim fussy schoolmarms”? Rather sexist and stereotyping of teachers. Is that what I was? And how do you know teachers no longer teach grammar? I and my colleagues did! Many students rarely read these days; perhaps their not learning grammar very well is due more to this fact rather than poor teaching.

  2. Tom Riggio

    Technically you’re correct, of course. But common usage nowadays has dumped the distinction, at least in the USA. I think because “whom” sounds so British and a bit academic. It’s gone the way of which and that! Language and usage is always evolving.

  3. Roger W. Smith

    Tom – former (?) New Yorker copyeditor Mary Norris does a great job of addressing such issues in “Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen,” sensibly. She’s a stickler for correct grammar, but takes great pains to show why it matters and why we should care. She also tackles thorny issues of usage such as when to use which vs. that.

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