Re: odd relative, a nd more

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Sat Dec 10 15:29:44 UTC 2005

In a message dated 12/10/05 10:03:18 AM, wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM writes:

> Sorry to say that the use of "which" to refer to human beings is indeed 
> English - the dreaded English of Tomorrow.
>   I have seen countless exx. of "which" for "who" since I began grading 
> freshman themes in 1976.  The majority of students at all levels prefer "that," 
> however.  Of equal interest, perhaps, is that they almost *never* use "who" in 
> relative constructions.
>   A very, very few also use "which's" and "that's" for "whose,"  even when 
> referring to people.  I can't say that I've ever noticed these forms in 
> speech, though.
>   JL

Perhaps "which" seems safer because it avoids the "who/whom" distinction but 
sounds tonier than "that"?

There is also the Southern (only?) practice--common in speech--of using 
"which" as a sort of coordinating conjunction when the preceding independent clause 
contains a [+human] direct object ("I don't really like my boyfriend's 
mother, which I am always trying to find excuses not to go o her house with him"). 
Arnold's example, though, is certainly not Southern, and to be a coordinating 
conjunction the sentence would have to read, "... seeking HIV-negative men, 
ages 18-45, which THEY have been a top or bottom in the past six months. ..."

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