I fired a word yesterday.
The decisive infraction was that, for the second time in two days, I was head-composing a social-media post in which the possible need for “whom” came up, but either I wasn’t sure whether it was the correct usage, or I knew it was correct but it looked/sounded awkward.
Even though they’re just social posts, I still treat them as writing. Even informally, the useful structures of traditional grammar matter to me.
My anger will be clear — and a historic event!
For instance, I still use periods in tweets and texts. If you think that makes me sound angry, you will need to adjust your expectations.
Also, I will fiercely oppose pointless new usages no matter how fashionable. Don’t say or write “literally” when you mean the opposite. I don’t care that dictionaries are documenting (not advocating) the poor usage. And cut out the pretense of, for no sensible reason, using “an” before “historic.” There’s a pronounced ‘h” there on these shores. Why are you Cockney all of sudden just because “history” became an adjective? Follow this rule: unless someone involved rode “an horse,” it’s not “an historic” event.
Everyone can find changes they like
But, as I noted in my New Year’s Eve post, many of the linguistic innovations brought to us by the social internet are brilliant and useful, and those I’ll happily adopt, because effective. I’ll also invent and tweak words as needed, especially to add humorous effect. (See “head-composing” above.)
And beyond the realm of typing, I’m shaking off my prescriptive tendencies to favor other useful corrections to our language that are happening, like employing “them”/”their” for third person, gender unknown. Paternalistic “him” just doesn’t cut it for that, no matter what your favorite stylebook says.
Though omitting periods would avoid this problem
Then there’s the American placement of periods within quoted matter. Whatever reason that U.S. printers started doing that, it does more harm than good now. The British have it right, as do we for other marks of punctuation that live inside or outside the quotes depending on the context. The American usage is still established strongly enough that, while I sympathize with friends’ crusade to reform this, I can only bring myself to break it in technical discussions, where it’s important to be clear about whether the period is in the quoted text or not. That’s the limit of my subterfuge on that matter. For now.
But I am losing such qualms regarding “whom.” No one needs this. Its absence never causes confusion. And so, I’ve decided that, unless I’m quoting someone or it’s in a title, or for some reason I’m submitting writing to someone with rigid expectations for this sort of thing, I’m done with this relic.
“Whom,” you’re fired. “Who” can do your job as well as … its.