Monday, January 21, 2008

Whom's next?

Remember, kids, keep your eyes on the basics and you won't get fooled again by pronoun hypercorrection!

The man, whom neighbors said was 73, died of burns and smoke inhalation.

Turn the relative clause back into a regular clause:
(Who/whom) neighbors said was 73
Neighbors said (he/him) was 73
"Whom" is tempting because it looks so ... grammatical. In this case, it ain't.

This fused relative from CNN is even easier, because you don't even have to invert the clause:

"I saw myself as a cross between Carrie Bradshaw and Colin Farrell -- hopelessly romantic, but willing to (be with whomever) came my way," Cohen explains.

(Whoever/whomever) came my way
(Hu/hum) came my way


The parenthetical clarification is more than a bit weird. I can see "be with" as a bowdlerization, (or, if you don't have a dirty mind today, a way of shortening "have one more moondance with"), but how did the pronoun get into the parens? By the conventions of news-speak, our source must have left out the pronoun:

Can I just have one more moondance with whoever comes along?
* Can I just have one more moondance with comes along?

Unless the writer (or editor) thought "whoever" was an error and "helped" by inserting the hypercorrect pronoun? Wish we could say that was a wild guess entirely unfounded in observation.

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2 Comments:

Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Well, it's always possible that the original quote was something like "boff whoever" and when "be with" was substituted, the editor thought that "with" meant "whomever" had to be substituted as well.

Possible...

8:53 PM, January 21, 2008  
Blogger fev said...

That's one of the things I love about news practice. As soon as you get it pinned down as a conspiracy, along comes a traffic accident that -- in the context of several score closely related split-second decisions in one shift -- just sort of, y'know, made perfect sense at the time.

11:03 PM, January 21, 2008  

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