Change I Can Believe In

Standard

Be warned: given my record as a grammar stickler, what I’m about to say may shock you.

I think the time has come to rewrite the rules.

Well, not all the rules.  Just one, really.  (Okay, two, if you consider that I’ve already embraced complete anarchy on the matter of sentence fragments.)  And what, you may ask, am I rambling on about?

Just this:  I think it’s time to rid ourselves of the archaic notion that it’s wrong to end a sentence with a preposition.

*pause for collective gasp*

After all, when it comes to the spoken word, we already have a deeply entrenched habit of doing just that.

In school: Johnny, who did you just throw that whiffle ball bat at?  If you don’t stop throwing whiffle ball bats at people, you won’t have anyone left to play with.

On the job: You other guys can pay your bills if you want to, but I know what I’m going to spend my paycheck on!

In marriage: It’s not that I don’t find chess tournaments fascinating, dear, but isn’t there anyone else you can go with?

At home: Mom, Caleb’s nose just froze solid and broke off, but he still won’t come in!

Of course, common oral usage alone is not enough to render a grammatical construction unobjectionable (see: “aight”, “nucular”, and “ain’t no never mind” for examples), but it certainly merits a deeper investigation by the grammar police.  (And while we’re on the subject, who are these grammar police, anyway?  Is this an elected office or an appointed one?  Shouldn’t we get to vote?  If my word usage is being curtailed, I need to know that the curtailer has at least a passing understanding of poetic license, the all-purpose excuse I invoke to cover my personal grammatical anomalies.)

Sure, I could rewrite my sentence to say: “At whom did you throw the whiffle ball bat, Johnny?”  And Johnny, unexpectedly gripped by the complexities of proper prepositional usage, might just halt his reign of terror long enough to query: “Huh?”  But in the end, it makes for a dreadful sentence, a sentence marked out by all the other sentences, enraged by its high-falutin’ snobbery, for metaphorical playground whiffle ball bat attacks.  To put it simply, as a grammatical companion, “whom” is a bit of a dud.

I know, I know.  Just by writing this I’m running the risk of having Strunk and White break into my home to take away my copy of Elements of Style.  Fortunately, in my thorough research of this issue (by which I mean a single Google search for the term “ending sentence with preposition”), it has come to my attention that I am not the only prepositional rebel out there.  In fact, there is a whole groundswell movement of actual grammarians who agree with me.  Some of them even went to college.

You can do what you like, of course, but as for me,  I’m going to give “whom” the wedgie he deserves and start ending my sentences with prepositions wherever I think it looks and sounds right.

Some rules are just plain silly.

Or, as Winston Churchill once said it: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

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18 responses »

  1. Or, as Winston Churchill once said it: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

    I’d have to agree with Churchy on this one…and with you Kat 🙂 I have chosen to simply overlook this particular rule of grammar, even though I too am quite the stickler.

  2. Yeah! I won’t up the put…which….with the English……..and the put……..up…….whom……..too. As it turns out, I’ve been accused of being part of the grammar police, which leads me to believe that it’s an elected office…and sometimes you don’t know when the election takes place.

  3. I must confess that I am not the best grammar scholar. I will tell you that instead of using “whom”, I just rewrite the whole thing so I won’t have to figure out the proper grammar.

  4. I hear my 5th grade teacher in my head with grammer rules whenever I write anything…. and she was especially hot on never ending a sentence with a preposition…. There is no escape!!!

  5. What Amber Joy said!

    I agree about the awkwardness, but I can’t agree about the rule change! I’m such a major grammar freak that I actually mentally re-think my sentences to get around that whole “whom” construction!

    For instance, “Johnny, who did you hit with the whiffle ball bat? No one will play with you if you keep throwing bats at people!”

    “I know how I’m going to spend my paycheck!”

    “Isn’t there anyone else who will go with you?”

    No who, whom or eosp!

  6. Well, it is an archaic rule transposed from Latin grammar to English grammar, so it doesn’t make sense anyway. I agree with you. It is one of the many things that made me twitch while getting my Linguistics degrees. LOL

    I’m a lurker and I come out of lurkdom for this…. It is a sad day in my life…

    I love to meet a lurker! Thanks for coming out of hiding! I bet studying Linguistics was pretty fascinating (twitchy parts aside…)

  7. Actually, being in education, you are one of those police. And frankly…I am extremely disappointed in you for even considering this. After all those year of knowing and respecting you this happens? Now, now, let’s don’t be hasty. Think this over. Our childrens minds are at stake.

    JK. I agree entirely.

    I know! Whose idea was it to let me mold young minds?

  8. I’m a grammar girl too (or is that glamour girl?) but I have to agree with Katrina…some rules need to be abolished. In a few years, I’ll be happy if our future generation can write complete words and sentences at all. The text world has ruined them! Change b4 its 2 late! 🙂

    I actually do worry about that. I mean, I like to lol as much as the next guy, but it’s gotten a little excessive. At least that’s what I was saying to my bff yesterday.

  9. It’s very Midwestern of you to leave a dangling preposition. When I moved out East, I was corrected a number of times on it, and I never knew it was wrong until then! “I’m going to run to the store, do you want to go with?” was perfectly fine in my little Midwestern town. I now know it’s just wrong, wrong, wrong, but I do it anyway. I mean, seriously. It’s just a lonely preposition!

  10. I think sisiggy’s example “Where are you at?” is a great example against ditching the rule, until you realize that it’s not a preposition problem, it’s a wordiness problem. “Where are you?” will do.

    And to Amy’s example, there are plenty of regional idioms that are outdated and kind of annoying, but I think “come with” falls into the same category as (here in Central PA), “Dutch Wonderland is fun–have you ever been?” or “The pizza will be ready in ten minutes; can I get you some drinks awhile?” rather than into the category of preposition errors.

    I’m sure it will interest you to know that there is a growing collective of grammar sticklers who think Struck & White itself is outdated nonsense. I gave a summary of their arguments on my blog a little while back: http://danielklotz.com/2008/09/25/omit-needless-books/. If you feel rebellious enough to take it to that next level, there’s a fun Facebook group, “Good Grammar is Hot, but Strunk and White are Not.” You should join.

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