​"Whom": The object of affection for the grammar police

Whom should we trust when it comes to a confusing question of English usage? Why, our Contributor Faith Salie, that's who!

"Whom" is an endangered species. Just ask Katy Perry and John Mayer ("Who You Love"), or New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, or ... well, most people.

And then there are the folks who are game to use "whom" but use it incorrectly.

I admit, I feel funny when I use the word "whom" as I'm talking to my diapered children, but I persist.

Why? Well, we'll get to that in a moment, but first a quick primer:

Whom is an object. It replaces him or her. We're supposed to say, "Whom do you love" because the answer is "I love him, or her." We do not say, "I love he or she."

I don't mean to sound pedantic -- and I certainly don't have perfect grammar. But sloppy grammar is a slippery slope. Once you give up on whom, what's next?

Are you going to leave the "ly"s off your adverbs? That's real sloppy! Stop your nouns and verbs from having conjugal visits? You lose whom and maybe you gonna stop speakin' good.

I'm not the only one who feels a passion for grammar. There's an anonymous vigilante group in Ecuador who corrects graffiti with spray paint in the dead of night! The local police have not arrested these grammar police -- they may be doing God's work, or at the least the work of a middle school teacher.

ecuador-graffiti-grammar-police-620.jpg
"We read a thousand times the same wall without understanding, and gave them a hand," wrote the undercover grammar police of Quito, Ecuador.
Acción Ortográfica Quito

Very few Americans (myself included) speak more than one language fluently, so the least we can do is try to honor English by speaking it well. We also honor each other -- often, words are all we have to connect us. So, isn't it worth endeavoring to speak, if not eloquently (who has the time?), then, um, correct ... ly?

Plus, because of whom's unfortunate rarity, it can just sound fancy. It's like putting lipstick on your sentence!

One study found that when it comes to online dating, men who use the word "whom" in their profiles receive 31% more contacts from opposite-sex respondents -- and it doesn't even matter if the dude wields his "whom" properly! So the guy who says "My ideal match is one whom loves my Daliesque moustache" gets as many hits as the gentleman who says "I'm looking for a lady with whom I can watch 'Downton Abbey.'"

I'm sure there are many who find what I'm saying punctilious, or old-fashioned, or irrelevant.

Some of you will want to share your nuanced thoughts online. Fair enough. Please address all comments "To Whom It May Concern."


More rants on grammar, vocabulary, and just plain talkin' wrong:


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