Sgt. Stryker is turning into a lit critter (though not the drunken animal kind):
I used to chafe at grammarians who felt it their mission in life to point out every grammatical error a written piece contained. I chafed, but I still took their advice.
Back in November 2001, this line (found in an email sent to InstaMan) would not have elicited a reaction:
These individuals did not know the contents of the letters nor whom the letters originally came from.
Now I'm not an expert on grammar. I don't know a gerund from a dangling participle, but this immediately jumped out at me as being odd. I thought to myself, "That should say, 'These individuals did not know the contents of the letters nor from whom they originally came.'"
I admit my hacked-up writing will never be featured on an academic test as an excerpted text, but I find it funny that I'm starting to notice this stuff.
I agree that it's a terrible sentence, but it seems to me there may be more than one way to fix it. Isn't the problem the mixing of formal and colloquial? I have no problem with either "who the letters originally came from" (more colloquial) or Sarge's "from whom the letters originally came" (more formal). But saying 'whom' and still ending the sentence with a preposition really grates on my nerves.
Similarly, I don't mind "who'd a' thunk" (very colloquial) or "who would have thought" (standard), but mixing the two with "who would have thunk" would really suck (colloquial). It would be like washing down grilled cheese sandwiches with single-malt Scotch, or making nachos with imported goat cheese, or serving chicken gizzards with caviar.
Two related jokes, both of them crude:
1. The first is from the movie Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. I'll have to quote it from memory, since it doesn't seem to be on the web:
FBI Agent: "This is the trailer those two boys were whacking off in."
FBI Supervisor: "What did I tell you about ending a sentence with a preposition?"
FBI Agent: "Uh, this is the trailer, uh, . . . off in which they were whacking."
2. My second joke is a variation on the one someone tells in Sarge's comments. I would say who (or is it whom?), but Sarge's site is down right now, and the Google cache doesn't seem to include comments. Anyway, here it is:
A clever young Alabamian arrives at Harvard as an entering Freshman. He's having trouble finding his way around campus on the first day, so he stops an upperclassman to ask for directions. (Please apply appropriate accents while reading: they're too hard to spell.)
Alabamian: "Excuse me, sir, can you tell me where the Harvard library is at?"
Upperclassman, sneering: "Here at Harvard, we do not end our sentences with prepositions."
Alabamian: "Well, sir, in that case, can you tell me where the Harvard library is at, asshole?"
I first heard this joke from a teacher in a graduate course on ancient Greek literature. Since this was in Virginia, Prof. K. may have made the young man a Virginian, not an Alabamian. He need not be a Southerner at all.Posted by Dr. Weevil at June 20, 2002 11:41 PM