Thursday, April 17, 2008
How to avoid looking dumb.
Don't say "hopefully". This battle has been lost, true, but there is something to be said for the futile attempt to maintain vanished standards, like the pathetic old lady who still wears a hat to church. To wit, the child stared hopefully into Santa's eyes, but not, I will find that I have some scotch left in the decanter, hopefully.
She and her, and he and him. Is it her you have been waiting for? No, it is she. If it is a noun you have been waiting for, and one hopes that it is, as one hopes we have not come so far that people have relations with things that are not even nouns, then it is, take my word for it, she. Or pronoun, if you want to be strict about it. Or he, as the case may be. But not him or her. Never ever say him and I. Just don't do it. Or him and me, as subjects of a sentence. He and I strove mightily to appear educated, for example. That's much better.
If you knock on a door, and somebody says "who is it?", you need not say "It is I!" but you should think it. You may say "It's me!", but you should remember that you are indulging in a colloquialism so as not to appear pretentious.
"Who did you give it to?" is wrong, of course. It's whom. Whom is a little tricky, as it has unfortunately fared poorly in our sad contemporary world, where young men show their underwear in public. I say, hold out for whom, but it is a personal decision.
Please note well that all the mistakes in the post are deliberate, and have been committed so as not to create the impression of a pedantic attachment to the rules of usage.