The Bell Tolls for “Whom”

I recently stumbled upon this article from the Atlantic about the death of the word “whom.”  I can’t disagree with the author’s thesis:  the word “whom” is dying a slow death, and this is mostly a good thing.  I’ve been teaching my students to use “whom” for objects and “who” for subjects, but I think I’m going to reevaluate this.  It would sound awfully strange if I asked a student, “Whom do you have for Torts?”

The New York Times seems to be on board with abandoning whom:  the headline on a recent Maureen Dowd column was “Who Do You Trust?”


New York Times: son of Syrian President may have written Facebook post about Obama, but we’re really, really not sure

NOTE:  This was originally posted on the old version of this website on Friday, August 30, 2013.

This article is remarkable in several ways, including its generous use of qualifiers and disclaimers. The first sentence alone has three:

A Facebook post said to be written by the 11-year-old son of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and “liked” or commented on by several people who appear to be the children and grandchildren of other senior members of Mr. Assad’s government, may offer a glimpse into the mindset of Syria’s ruling elite as the country braces for a potential Western strike in response to a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21.

It gets worse from there:

Perhaps most significantly, the Facebook post said to have been written by Hafez al-Assad has been “liked” or commented on by several accounts that appear to belong to the children or grandchildren of other senior figures in the Assad administration. Among them are accounts that seemingly belong to two children of Deputy Vice President Mohammed Nassif Khierbek, Ali and Sally, and to three children of a former deputy defense minister, Assef Shawkat, who was killed in a bombing in July 2012.

The accounts said to belong to the children of Mr. Shawkat — one of his sons, Bassel, and two of his daughters, Anisseh and Boushra — appeared to be authentic, according to a Syrian journalist from Damascus who has extensive knowledge of the country’s ruling elite and spoke on condition of anonymity, citing safety concerns. Mr. Shawkat was married to the sister of Bashar al-Assad, making these three children cousins of Mr. Assad’s son Hafez, who is believed to be the author of the Facebook post.

If I’m reading this right, the Times thinks this Facebook post was written by the Syran president’s 11-year-old son, but the Times really, really, really isn’t sure. Finally, we get this “aw, screw it, it doesn’t really matter anyway” sentence:

Regardless of its provenance, the post appears to illustrate the mindset of Mr. Assad’s core supporters, who have stood by him through more than two years of a grinding war that has killed more than 100,000 Syrians and caused millions more to flee their homes.

Well, thanks for the knowledge, NY Times.



This is a blog about writing, with a particular focus on legal writing.

My name is Pete Nemerovski.  I teach Legal Communication and Research Skills at the University of Miami School of Law.  You can read my bio here.

I will post podcasts here from time to time.  I will also comment on writing-related topics and link to articles I find interesting.

I welcome your questions and comments.  You can use the comments section of the blog, or you can email me at

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(1) Much better URL.
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Disadvantages:  NONE!