Short takes

October 03, 2012|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

Item: I know that R.L.G. must be right at Johnson, because he says the same things about whom that I have been saying: In normal speech, who is used as subject and object; whom appears in formal speech and writing, and less frequently there. "Since whom is becoming less common, many people can't use it properly even when they are aiming for Formal. (A common mistake is using it in a subject role, for example: That's the candidate whom I hope will win the election. Here, the mistake is in thinking that I hope turns who into an object. But the clause is really who will win the election, with I hope just an interpolation.) The unease over whom just makes people avoid it more." Do read the whole article.

Item: Responding to my post on the definite article, a reader asks whether the should be capitalized with Johns Hopkins University, since that is how the university styles itself. But signage and stationery aside, the convention is as The Chicago Manual of Style states: With the full names of institutions and organizations, "a the preceding a name, even when part of the official title, is lowercased in running text."

Item: Also commenting on the definite article, Alon Lischinsky writes, "I can't bring myself to hate anarthrous [used without an article] initialisms, pace the delightful Mr McIntyre. Fashions in article use come and go, and no-one seems to regret the times when we said 'the Ukraine'." The reason we no longer say "the Ukraine" is entirely political. We use the definite article to indicate a region, such as "the East Coast" or "the Southwest." Once Ukraine became an independent nation, it objected to "the Ukraine" as indicating that it was still considered to be a region of Russia. (No one regrets dropping "Little Russia," either.) 

Item: Barbara Phillips Long forwards a link to an article by Jessamyn West advising journalists how not to write about libraries. Advice about abandoning cliches and stereotypes is, or should be, always welcome. It's also salutary to be reminded of what wonderful and valuable places libraries are.

Item: Another reader inquires: "It has been sometime  since a new joke of the week video has appeared. I really like them and hope this has not be discontinued." It is true that my time has been eaten up by other urgencies in the past few weeks, and there is also the difficulty that relatively clean jokes that are also funny have been increasingly difficult to find. But I have accumulated a handful that we will be producing this week, with the expectation of resuming the weekly joke next week. (Be careful what you ask for.)

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