Friday, June 29, 2018

Lucy’s whom

[Peanuts, July 2, 1971.]

Lucy has asked Charlie Brown, “Which is correct, ‘Who are we kidding?’ or ‘Whom are we kidding?’” Charlie Brown: “Well, I suppose ‘whom’ is correct although most people would say ‘who.’” (He’s right.) And what does he think are the team’s chances of winning today? “Oh, I’d say about fifty-fifty.” Thus this panel.

Google hits for “who are we kidding”: 650,000. For “whom are we kidding”: 27,000. The informal kidding works strongly in favor of who. But not for Lucy.


11:36 a.m.: Comments on today’s strip claim expertise: “Lucy is WRONG… Whom is only correct when preceded by a preposition… One of those words with which you should not end a sentence!!” Um, no.

“‘Who (Nominative case, the case of the subject of the sentence) are we kidding?’ is correct. Um, no. The subject of the sentence is we: we are kidding whom?

[Yesteryear’s Peanuts is this year’s Peanuts.]

comments: 2

The Arthurian said...

Just sat down with the wife to watch S1E1 of Lewis (for about the third time in three months). Episode title: "Whom the Gods Would Destroy". Right away I thought of Lucy.

Then: But wait a minute! Suppose I say "I am the one whom the Gods will destroy." That's not right. I am the one who. What I would do, anyway. Or skirt the issue with I am the one that.

I understand that in Lucy's sentence "we" is the subject. Yes, as in your 11:36 a.m. update.

I can't resolve the Lewis title question. I'm going to say it's a title, not a sentence, and the rules for sentences don't apply. But I don't know.

Michael Leddy said...

Since the title borrows the old saying “Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad,” the whom should stand. (That saying, by the way, is a real rabbit hole.)

But there’s a better reason for whom. The gods would destroy [fill in the blank]: Me? You? Her? Him? Us? Them? All objective pronouns, all objects of the verb would destroy. So whom is correct. But for contrast: He is the one [fill in the blank] will be destroyed. Now we need a nominative pronoun, who, as the subject of a clause. Who will be destroyed? He will. Whom will the gods destroy? Him.

But whom sounds stilted. With a similar sentence, I might use whom. But I might skirt the issue by using that or omitting the pronoun: I am the witness that the feds are trying to flip. I am the witness the feds are trying to flip. And as Charlie Brown would point out, many people would use who: I am the witness who the feds are trying to flip.