KANSAS CITY, Mo. — . To whom it may concern: Were not all that concerned with the proper use of who and whom anymore.
Oh sure, it was important to Ernest Hemingway when he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls more than 70 years ago. We still teach whom in high school and use it as a salutation in letters to unknown recipients. And we might drop an Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee, misquote of a John Donne poem into casual conversation.
But, you know, whom really cares, right?
In the world of Twitter and texting, whom is archaic, a grammatical anachronism. Even the Hallmark Channel, a division of the Kansas City company that made its fortune with words, is giving up. Hallmark is promoting the Oct. 20 premiere of an original movie called I Married Who?
It should be I Married Whom? The Hallmark Channel knows this. It just doesnt care. Theres a good reason.
I Married Whom? sounds stupid. Its not colloquial. Its not natural.
Michelle Vicary, the Hallmark Channels executive vice president of programming, said the title for I Married Who? needed to be fun, conversational and relatable to reflect the movies contemporary story about a bride-to-be, a Vegas bachelorette party and an inadvertent marriage to a movie star.
Make it too stilted and nobody watches. In other words, ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for whom.
Its a grammatical death knell.
You certainly wont find whom on many, if any, Hallmark cards.
Greeting cards are about what people want to say to each other, so they have to reflect whats going on in the culture and the language, said spokeswoman Linda Odell.
Why is whom dying? Beyond sounding stuffy, its hard for many to understand when to use it.
Heres the general rule: Use who when it is the subject of a sentence or clause the one taking the action, as in Who loves you? Use whom when it is the object of a sentence or clause the recipient of the action, as in Whom do you love?
See the problem?
Jennifer Frangos, assistant professor of English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, knows whom is facing an uphill battle.
Yes, it may get to the point where nobody remembers the rules or why the distinctions are important, she said. But until then, its incumbent upon those of us for whom the distinctions are important to continue to raise the issues.