whom in OED inaccuracy

David A. Daniel dad at POKERWIZ.COM
Fri Sep 18 02:04:42 UTC 2009

I agree with Randy and his source(s) that whom is not dead and, if the OED
says it is, the OED is wrong. Whom has just gotten more flexible and
idiomatic, is all.
Whom has become, not just a matter of grammar, but of form, usage, context,
syntax, idiom, shibboleth, etc. As one example, even in informal speech few,
if any, educated speakers would say, "... and he was talking about who?",
but many or most or perhaps even all educated speakers would say, "...and
who was he talking about?" So, perhaps its use has become more syntax- than
case-related? But it is definitely not dead (or even dying, or even gravely
ill), I observe. However, this observation applies to US English. Whom may
well be dead or dying in the UK, along with the subjunctive, which would be,
I think, a shame, but is, in the end, their problem, not mine.)
(I had a bunch of commas left over that I had to use up.)

We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Randy Alexander
Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 8:34 PM
Subject: whom in OED inaccuracy

whom in OED inaccuracy

I just got back from a trip to Australia, the purpose of which was to
consult with Rodney Huddleston about an English grammar textbook I am
writing.  While I was there, I received an email from a friend in
Beijing that contained "xxx of yyy, who* many of us have known only
virtually up until now".  He facetiously added "*Beijing is a
whom-free zone".

I asked Rodney if he thought "whom" was dying, and he said no, very
few speakers would accept constructions like "most of who".

I don't know if there is a newer online version of the OED that I
cannot access, but the one that I can access, just under the headword
"whom", says:

The objective case of WHO: no longer current in natural colloquial speech.

This is inaccurate.  Perhaps the entry could be modified to say that
in natural colloquial speech it is no longer current unless preceded
by a preposition.

Randy Alexander
Jilin City, China
My Manchu studies blog:

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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