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Criticizing someone else's grammar is risky business - The online computery journal thingy of a turtle

Jan. 6th, 2009

06:11 pm - Criticizing someone else's grammar is risky business

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...but I'm going to attempt it anyway, because I feel sure that the subject of my post has failed at it himself.

Just for fun, I typed "stupid bumper sticker" into Google Images. It turned up a lot of images used in blog posts, but sadly the posts are stupid more often than the bumper stickers themselves.

Here's a prime example: http://godsnotwheregodsnot.blogspot.com/2007/11/whom-would-jesus-vote-for-what-are-you.html

Note the bumper sticker "Whom Would Jesus Vote For?" -- I'm astounded that anybody would try and and sound all grammatically correct using "whom" for a religious bumper sticker. Which is twice as odd in that it's wrong. "Who Would Jesus Vote For?" is correct. Jesus would vote for whom? For whom would Jesus vote? Who would Jesus vote for? If you vote the way Jesus votes, who would you vote for? For whom would you vote if you voted as Jesus would vote? -- 'Whom' is an object. 'Who' is a subject. Trying to sound all smart with the message made them wrong... go figure.


Umm... no, actually. Grammar doesn't work that way. "Whom would Jesus vote for" sounds a bit awkward, but it is in fact grammatically correct. Separating "for" and "whom" does not change the fact that "whom" is the object of "for", and certainly does NOT make "whom" into a SUBJECT, even though it's been placed before the verb. The subject of the sentence is "Jesus"; he's the one performing the action (voting). If the sentence were "Who would vote for Jesus", then yes, "who" would be the subject.

I'm surprised the guy didn't try to argue against ending the sentence with a preposition (which, in English, there's no rule against, despite what a lot of people seem to think).

Comments:

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From:tilt_longtail
Date:January 7th, 2009 12:45 am (UTC)
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Jesus voted for Greifer in the fursuittourney,
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:January 7th, 2009 12:47 am (UTC)
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And "Greifer" is the object of the preposition "for" in that sentence!
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From:thecanuckguy
Date:January 7th, 2009 03:10 am (UTC)
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No! The sentence is incorrect! "Whom Would Jesus Vote For?" is an incorrect sentence because Jesus doesn't vote! He hasn't been here for over 2,000 years, well before the advent of democracy in the region that he lived in (and it's not like there's anyone left on the earth who listened to what he said closely enough to rightfully claim to speak for him!)

I look forward to more in the series of "blog posts that are stupider than their subject"
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:January 7th, 2009 03:31 am (UTC)
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But "would" is subjunctive. The implied full thought is "Who(m)* would Jesus vote for, if he were alive today and eligible to vote?" Thus your criticism of my criticism of this other guy's criticism of the bumper sticker, though probably meant tongue in cheek, is nonetheless off the mark and wrong-a-licious! Touché! Checkmate! Yahtzee! Stratego! Hungry Hungry Hippos!

*I consider it acceptable to use either "who" or "whom" as an object. The form "whom" is becoming archaic.
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From:keeper1st
Date:January 7th, 2009 06:21 am (UTC)
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You'd probably enjoy Stephen Fry's recent podcast on language evolution, though you may disagree with parts, as many others have: http://fry.positive-dedicated.net/fry-podcast2-episodes-03.mp3
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From:keeper1st
Date:January 11th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
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Speaking of Stephen Fry, here's a clip of him being humorously grammatically pedantic on his pseudo-intellectual pseudo-quiz show QI:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w-XQ6MVAsM

Here's another funny bit where he's trying to read the next question from the teleprompter, but it is grammatically incorrect and thus he can't:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnPVDknzbIg

You'd probably like the show QI. The basic premise: Stephen presents the panel with a quite esoteric question, then he awards points for replies which are Quite Interesting -- regardless of whether or not they are correct. Points are taken away for pre-determined "obvious but wrong" answers. ...and they go on all sorts of funny tangents.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:January 12th, 2009 10:08 pm (UTC)
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Quite interesting!
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From:keeper1st
Date:January 13th, 2009 04:31 am (UTC)
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I watched 10 episodes of it yesterday. One bit actually brought me to tears from laughing so hard!
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From:ringbark
Date:January 7th, 2009 06:54 am (UTC)
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This pretend grammar is right there with misuse of "I".

We start with teachers complaining about "James and me went to the park" and end up with the imagined rule that "me" with "and" is wrong and pretty soon it's

"He gave the cookies to James and I"
even from people who would *never* say
"He gave the cookies to I"

Senior managers, broadcasters, preachers - they all do it and it makes my flesh creep - but they are people who won't take kindly to having grammar corrected.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:January 7th, 2009 08:00 am (UTC)
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What's even worse is when people try to put a phrase like "John and I" in the possessive, and they come up with this monstrosity: "John and I's cookies". It's not a set phrase, people! The proper form is "John's and my cookies".
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From:nefaria
Date:January 7th, 2009 12:57 pm (UTC)
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All cookies are mine, NONE are yours!
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From:nefaria
Date:January 7th, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC)
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**hacks into your computer and clicks the Delete Cookies button in your web browser**
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:January 7th, 2009 09:01 pm (UTC)
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*ARRRNOMNOMNOM*
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From:deckardcanine
Date:January 7th, 2009 05:17 pm (UTC)
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I used to think "Ben & Jerry's" was technically incorrect, but apparently "Ben's & Jerry's Ice Cream" would be accurate only if each of them had separate ice cream. Nevertheless, it could be confusing if you shouted, "Hey, you're eating John and my cookies!"

Albert Temple has repeatedly had characters say things like, "If you don't need CW and I...." I suppose I shouldn't be hard on the writer if people actually talk like that, but a Gene Catlow forumite who claims to be an editor insisted that it was grammatically correct. I cited a few sources to no avail before stopping for the peace of the forum. One source was Dave Barry answering made-up questions:

"Should people who don't know left from right be allowed to vote?
No.
What about people who say 'between you and I'?
We prefer execution without a trial."

My opponent had replied that "between you and I" was a different case for some reason.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:January 7th, 2009 09:00 pm (UTC)
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Some people hear these incorrect phrases so often that they think it's an entrenched idiosyncrasy of English (and it may become so in the future, pfaugh!) and sometimes when I show someone the correct form, he/she will say it "looks wrong", because he/she has never seen the correct form anywhere!

This kind of thing grates on the nerves of logical-minded people such as me.
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From:thecanuckguy
Date:January 9th, 2009 01:59 am (UTC)

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

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Nevertheless, it could be confusing if you shouted, "Hey, you're eating John and my cookies!"

I think the confusion would stem only if there was an extra exclamation point:

"Hey, you're eating John! And my cookies!"
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From:yakko
Date:January 7th, 2009 08:14 am (UTC)
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"He gave the cookies to James and I"

This burns me up because it's simple to read through this and realize it's wrong. It's like nails on a chalkboard every time I hear people do this!
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From:rubbertexcooper
Date:January 7th, 2009 08:25 am (UTC)
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Okay, I'll bite... are you an English teacher? :D
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:January 7th, 2009 09:29 am (UTC)
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No, I'm just an amateur grammar geek.
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From:nefaria
Date:January 7th, 2009 12:59 pm (UTC)
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My grade school teacher gave me a simple rule for who and whom: if you can use he, then you can replace it with who; if you can use him, then you can replace it with whom.

It works quite nicely, unless your who happens to be a she, or your whom happens to be a her.
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From:thecanuckguy
Date:January 10th, 2009 11:56 pm (UTC)
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In other words you mean the hypothetical answer to the bumper sticker ("Jesus would vote for him") would mean that a "whom" is required. But if the question was "Who voted for Jesus?" the answer ("He did!") would mean that a "who" is correct?

Man, that *is* easy!
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