April 2, 2013

Alexandra Petri’s March 23 plea for the resuscitation of “whom” showed a good heart but bad timing [“Who will save whom?,” op-ed]. The column is several decades too late. Unlike “whence” and “whither,” which gently withered away, “whom’s” problem is that many do not know how to use it. The main problem is in subordinate clauses serving as objects, of the miserable nature of “We chose those whom we thought were the best pitchers.”

Incorrect use of “who” is slightly boorish but sincere and virile. Incorrect use of “whom” is pretentious. I will keep “whom” until I die, but for social tranquility and personal standing, the community should abjure it.

Ernest Johnston,

Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Thanks to Alexandra Petri for her column on, dare I say it, the doom of “whom.” My wife teaches English to people from other countries. They are eager to assimilate into our world but are stymied by unnecessary roadblocks such as “who/whom.”

Because language is evolutionary, not revolutionary, there won’t be any grand funeral for “whom.” Instead there would be a collective sigh of relief heard throughout the land.

Sanford Brotman, Fairfax

I couldn’t have read anything more satisfying than Alexandra Petri’s column on the common misuse of “who” and “whom.” The mistake could be forgiven if the speaker or writer were a person of limited scholastic background, but when it originates from people with a higher level of education, it is unforgivable.

English is my secondary language and, as such, my pronounciation might still carry an accent that may reveal my place of birth, and my ignorance of some idiomatic expressions at times might leave me and the person to whom I speak perplexed. At 91 years of age, I still try to improve the first and to acquire more knowledge of the second. But at the same time I wonder, why is it that a basic rule such as the use of subject and object in a sentence cannot be understood?

Petri’s column referred to the problem with clarity and humor. Now I would love to hear something from her about the following atrocities: “between you and I,” “they spoke to Jane and I” and similar cases.

Gabriella Cahill, Springfield

Alexandra Petri was barking up the wrong tree when she worried about the use of the pronoun “whom.” That’s not the elephant in the room of modern grammar. What’s really scary is the misuse of “I” and “me.” You hear it all the time — on the radio, on TV, in gatherings: “Just between you and I.” And “He gave it to George and I.” Has the world gone grammatically mad?

“I” is used as the subject of the sentence. The doer. “Me” is the object, the receiver of action. The person to whom something is given, offered, told, shown or shared. So please say, “Between you and me.” Say, “He gave it to George and me.”

However, this is all probably immaterial. After all, English no longer seems to be our national language.

Bebe Faas Rice, Potomac Falls