I was watching one of those crappy American cop shows on TV last night with brain barely ticking over when I was stung into attention. One cop character asked: “[Some name I can’t remember] is whom?”
WHOM, I shouted at the TV???. Surely you mean “who”?
Well, unless someone can convince me otherwise, the answer is, of course, “who”, given that the complement of the verb “to be” takes the same case as the subject. Less technically, the cop could easily have been scripted to ask: “Who is so-and-so?”. The writer would not have even considered “Whom is so-and-so?”
My point, though, is not to complain about the usual media mangling of English grammar, but about poshness. The scriptwriter has clearly been told somewhere along the line about “who” and “whom” and that in correct (oh, all right let’s call it formal) grammar you use “whom” as the object of verbs. So he or she, not wanting to be thought ignorant (and possibly lauding his or her language skills over the rest of the unwashed drunks and druggies around the script table), inserted “whom” after the verb and, no doubt, smiled smugly as the actors obligingly mouthed it back.
Equally no doubt, this person always says “between you and I”, as you can hear any time of the day or night – on radio, on TV and in the street. Comperes, news readers, the lady from Brarhton and that chap from Broady who wishes he was from Toorak. It makes the user sound so much more learned, and refined . . . and posh.
But, really, they’re just ignorant. Look it up. I’m not about handing out grammar lessons.
And what sort of a scriptwriter is it who imagines that an LA cop actually knows the word “whom”, let alone how to use it?
A week later. Same crappy cop show. Same character to colleague: “To who?”
Between he and I, that scriptwriter and me has got this thing nailed.