Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Agreement by chance

Naturally, none of you would try this at home, but -- you've probably figured out that, given a roughly equal proportion of correct "true" and "false" answers, you can score around 50% on a true-false test just by hitting the same key every time. Which, with all due respect, I think we should suggest for the nice folks downtown whenever they come to a who/whom question:

Frances P. Dingle, whom authorities said was driving with nearly triple the amount of alcohol in her blood than is allowed by law, was arraigned Tuesday afternoon on four counts of murder in her room at St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital in Warren, police said. (5A, jumping from 1A)

A 40-year-old Sri Lankan national, who U.S. authorities have twice tried to deport, was in federal court Tuesday charged with throwing a tantrum and threatening the flight crew of a London-bound Northwest Airlines jet last month during his deportation. (2B)

Sarath Dhanayakage, who entered the country on a fake Singaporean passport in July 2007 and was caught two days later trying to enter Windsor, Canada, screamed to the flight crew that "everyone was going to die," after agents took him on to the plane at Detroit Metro Airport on Feb. 9, according to a federal indictment. (Same story, 2B)

Wasn't that easy? If you just hit "who" every time, you'll be at 67%, almost a gentleperson's C-minus, rather than the fairly miserable 33% you'd have by doing whatever the Freep does. (Yes, for the record, the answers are who-whom-who, not whom-who-who).

As I've said before, I like "whom." It's a friendly little pronoun, and it gives us something to talk about at conferences. I don't want to throw it over the side, but -- you have to admit, just getting rid of case-inflected pronouns looks like a really good idea sometimes, doesn't it?

The bizarre process that must have produced "nearly triple the amount of alcohol in her blood than is allowed by law," on the other hand, ought to be stopped. You'd like to attribute that to deadline writing, given that the deadly wreck in question occurred around 8:30 at night, but then you're sort of forced to acknowledge that the wreck was at 8:30 Monday night and the tortured paragraph in question is from the Wednesday paper. Sort of makes you wonder why the Tuesday Freep had no mention of a wreck on Monday that killed four teenagers (and ate up a lot of the News's Tuesday front). Somebody's trying really, really hard to make sure I don't miss having a newspaper in my driveway in the morning, and it's starting to work.


Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

If we dumped "whom" - at least as the relative complementizer (by analogy with "which, that, where, when) it would be easier. Immediately following the preposition, okay, I still use it myself.

But I remember, and appreciate, the exchange from In the Heat of the Night that went like this:

Lonnie: He must have had help.
Bubba: And I know who from.
Gillespie: From whom.
Bubba: From Fred Johnson, that's who from.

9:17 PM, March 18, 2009  

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