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Letter: Who(m) to Blame? Try John Lindsay

To the Editor:

I read with interest the short syndicated story in the March 24 Sunday Valley News regarding the demise of the objective-case word “whom” for which the subjective-case word “who” will now be an acceptable substitute in practical English (“Who Will Save ‘Whom’?”).

Back in the 1960s, New York City had a “serious crime” wave. Mayor John Lindsay, under public pressure, found a remedy. By raising the amount of money involved in a theft required to qualify it as a “serious crime,” many crimes that had previously been designated as “serious” instantly became “minor.” The number of serious crimes in the city dropped significantly. This was what might be called the “John Lindsay approach to crime fighting.”

Recently, the so-called grammar police have come to be regarded as passe. Current opinion has it that a grammatical error committed often enough becomes acceptable. “Your” vs. “you’re”; “its” vs “it’s”; “who” vs. “whom”; “their” vs. “there” vs. “they’re” — those distinctions are now out the window, and anything goes when errors are made often enough to become common usage.

I personally regard this as giving in to poor schooling in our native tongue. Apparently, if we can’t teach people to speak properly, then we change the rules and make bad grammar OK grammar, lowering the bar. Under the John Lindsay approach to the English language, ignorance becomes good-enough knowledge.

Curt Peterson

Hartland

Related

Commentary: Who Will Save ‘Whom’?

Monday, March 25, 2013

At the Atlantic, Megan Garber alerts us to the news that “whom” is falling out of fashion. It has been a gradual but inevitable process, somewhat like the heat death of the universe. Whom is creeping slowly out of our vocabulary, trying to avoid notice, like someone crawling up the middle aisle during a movie. “It’s not who you know,” …