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May 6, 2012
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BJONES, I did take your sarcasm somewhat seriously. I don't always like the direction language takes, but evolution of meanings and usage is natural and unavoidable. If it's any consolation, there is the notion of collocation or context of words. If I say 'x literally means y', literally can only have the meaning you would prefer. But if I say that I literally went through the ceiling, based on the context, the word 'literally', has a very different meaning. If I meant that I truly went through the ceiling, the word 'literally' would indeed be somewhat redundant. On the other hand, ' I literally went through the ceiling' is a dead metaphor and is overused, though I admit I don't have the capacity to invent wonderfully creative metaphors on the spot.
Porshe, I very much like your response. Hamish, I sympathize with you, though I find the notion of pedantry as being stupid and dumb a bit strong. There are far "dumberer" and more stupid things in this world, such as recreational and unnecessary warfare, though this is solely my opinion. I have to admit, that as I get older, I take pedantry with a bit of salt if not amusement, if my clichés may be excused.
So it goes.
I agree with JJMBallantyne, language evolves. BJOINES is a bit mistaken. "Lets just change ... the meanings of words to what we like, " simply is wrong. Nobody **changes** the meaning of "literally" to what suits their fancy. The meaning of the word changed long ago through natural evolution of language, not because someone "liked" it. Furthermore, much of what we say **is** completely stupid, but not because we use contemporary conversational English.
That said, I also cringe at certain usage such as "between John and I" and "for her and I", etc., but I have every right to be pedantic in those few cases where I take umbrage.
I do find the who/whom issue very interesting, perhaps the most interesting "issue" or perhaps "nonissue" in English usage.From the linguists point of view, that which is regularly used by many and understood by all is grammatical. That which is not, is agrammatical. "Who did you call?" and "Whom did you call?" are perfectly grammatical. "I saw boy the" is agrammatical.It must be noted that linguists as social scientists must overlook their prejudices when they hear "It is for you and I", since this is perfectly grammatical. As previously pointed out, "I seen him", "for you and I" , " I shoudda went" are perfectly grammatical, but give away the social class of the speaker.
That said, language does evolve. We no longer say "thee" and "thou". This was changing in the time of Shakespeare and is totally lost today. Shakespeare fully understood the nuance of his words, and in fact "whom" was in the process of dropping out of English at the time of Shakespeare. It is the way of evolution that thee and thou are archaic, but whom survives, in various contexts for various speakers.
One may note that the French still use the passé simple in writing but it is centuries displaced in spoken French. That is something of the case in English with "whom", I use it in writing by obligation, but only in very limited contexts in speaking.
If we can go by what universities world-wide teach learners of English as a second language, "whom" is obligatory in writing, and to be avoided as stilted or pedantic in speaking.
So it goes
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