March 21, 2002
A Useful Whom

Ken Layne (scroll down to fourth item) pronounces anathema on any American who says 'whom' in any context:

A FoxNews reader complained because I used "who" instead of "whom." I don't use the word "whom." Ever. I'm American, for chrissakes. If you hear somebody saying "whom," kill them before they breed. I write like I talk. Take it or leave it. Punk.

There are some limited circumstances in which 'whom' is still useful. A friend once had a telephone number that was easily confused with that of a local pizza parlor, and got dozens of wrong numbers every week. He couldn't just take the phone off the hook, because he was teaching Philosophy 101 to 200+ students. He had no teaching assistants and no campus office, since he was a graduate student himself (though unsupervised). That meant that students often needed to call him at home. An answering machine allowed call-screening whenever he was home, but it tended to fill up with pizza orders whenever he went out.

This was a few years ago. Oddly, I can no longer recall whether he or I ever expressed any sympathy for all the poor ham-fisted pizza lovers waiting in vain for their nonexistent pizzas.

Anyway, my friend solved the problem overnight with an answering machine message beginning "the person to whom you wish to speak is not in at the moment". After it was installed, he got a lot of no-message hangups whenever he was home, presumably from hungry pizza lovers muttering "that don't sound like Luigi's, guess I better look it up and try again". Students rather expected a philosophy teacher to say 'whom' and stayed on the line to leave a message.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at March 21, 2002 10:10 PM