Today’s Word Fact is Whom

  

Over the last 200 years, the pronoun whom has been on a steady decline. Despite its waning use in speech and ongoing speculation about its imminent extinction, whom still holds a spot in the English language, particularly in formal writing. Understanding when and how to use this embattled pronoun can set your writing apart.

Whom is often confused with who. What’s the difference between these two pronouns? Who is a subjective-case pronoun, meaning it functions as a subject in a sentence, and whom is an objective-case pronoun, meaning it functions as an object in a sentence. Who, like I, he, she, and they, performs actions, as in Who rescued the dog? (who is doing the rescuing in this sentence). Whom, like me, him, her, and them, is acted on, as in Whom did you see? (whom is being seen here, not doing the seeing). Whom more commonly appears when it follows a preposition, as in the salutation To Whom it may concern (Does it concern he? No. Does it concern him? Yes.) or in the title of Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel For Whom the Bell Tolls.

How do you decide which one to use? When in doubt, substitute him (sometimes you’ll have to rephrase the sentence) and see if that sounds right. If him is OK, then whom is OK. If the more natural substitute is he, then go with who. For example: You talked to whom? It would be incorrect to say You talked to he? but saying You talked to him? makes grammatical sense.

That said, in informal speech and writing, speakers will often opt for who where whom has traditionally been used. This choice sounds more natural and less formal to most native English speakers.

Do you ever use whom?

Please let me know if you’ve had trouble with whom in the past, I know I did! 

Does this help with when and where to use it?

Have a wonderful day!

All My Best, 

Jill

An Emoji for Word of the Year?

I found this post on Grammarly’s blog and had to share it here with all of you. Let me know your thoughts on this and if after reading the article you agree. 😂

More than words. 😂

The Oxford Dictionaries word of the year for 2015 is 😂. It’s an emoji. The reaction to this news has varied from 😱 (it’s the death of language!) to 😏 (it’s a lame publicity stunt). Emojis are not words. That’s something Oxford itself agrees on, defining the word as “a single distinct element of speech or writing.” We don’t speak in emojis or write in emojis, at least not the old pen-in-hand way. But in real-world conversation, we don’t rely solely on words; body language is said to make up 55% of communication . So perhaps the emoji is the digital equivalent, enhancing the tone of our message beyond words. If so, is it possible to distill the huge gamut of complex human emotion into a series of comic faces?

And why the “face with tears of joy” emoji? Oxford said it “best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.” Is this the same 2015 defined by climate change talks, terrorist attacks, and a migrant crisis? These seem at total odds. However, together with Swiftkey, a mobile tech company, Oxford found 😂 was the most frequently used emoji of 2015. Could it be our tears of a collective clown? Or perhaps it is no reflection of our moods at all. Instead, emoji-speak is a self-contained discourse and we tailor our conversations and emotions to fit its limits. And this is the crucial shift that Oxford has acknowledged with their choice.

Seeing comes before words.

Using images in communication is nothing new. The first sentence in John Berger’s Ways of Seeing proposes that we understand images before words. “Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognises before it can speak.” So the popularity of emojis in digital conversations is not so surprising. Perhaps it allows us to return to a pre-linguistic form of expression and understanding.

This return to the dialogue of images is clear from the rise in photographic platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. Berger goes on to say that “It is seeing which establishes our place in the world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it.” It’s always a challenge to explain our world with words. But even a photograph is taken from an angle chosen by the photographer. Emojis are constructed by a certain group of people and used by people in a certain way. They are not as pure and simple a medium as they appear.

A picture paints a thousand words.

Emojis are loaded with meaning beyond the sum of their parts. Almost a century ago, Ferdinand de Saussure, a pioneer in the field of linguistics, wrote that language is a system of signs, and words are only part of this system. For Saussure and other semioticians (studiers of signs), anything at all that forms meaning is language. Meaning is coded in so much, from the clothes we wear to traffic lights changing color.

A word is a string of letters that is assigned a meaning, and this meaning is arbitrary to the word. In English, the word for a canine is dog. In French, it is chien. But both words signify the same object. However, images have a more natural relationship to what the are signifying. A photo of a house reflects the image of the house. In this way, emojis can transcend words and be understood across all cultures.

However, as emojis increase in popularity, their meanings become more layered. Roland Barthes, critical theorist, explored these layers of meaning and the idea of connotation. He used the example of a dove. A picture of a dove is the sign, while the bird itself is what is being signified or denoted. We link the image of the dove with its connotation: the concept of peace. This is as arbitrary a relationship as words have with their meanings.

In emoji land, new connotations are emerging. For example, the eggplant 🍆, has become more than a picture of a vegetable. It is now the phallic emoji. And not to be used in the wrong contexts.

Liberation through limitation.

The limited choice of emojis is inextricably linked to their success and personalities. We are confined to the images available in order to express ourselves. How often do we actually laugh so hard that we cry? Probably not enough in real life, but apparently we are digitally hysterical. As Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries, explained in announcing the decision, “Not only did we see a dramatic spike in usage of ‘Face with Tears of Joy,’ we felt the character captured a sense playfulness and intimacy that embodies emoji culture itself.”

The same images are reproduced over and over again, like emoji clichés or speaking through kitsch. Out on an emoji farm called Unicode in California, new crops of emojis are grown and their limits are established. Anyone is able to suggest new emojis to Unicode. Each proposal must include a case for the new creation and is then put to a committee who decides its fate.

The medium is the message.

This well-known phrase was coined in 1964 by communications philosopher Marshall McLuhan. Although the quote is often misunderstood as meaning that the vehicle is everything and the content is irrelevant, McLuhan actually meant something quite different. He used the example of a news story about a crime. The message, he says, is not the story itself, or the delivery, but the sense of fear that evolves from hearing the story. It’s noticing these “messages,” or shifts in culture (the “ground,” as he put it), that is crucial.

So perhaps Oxford Dictionaries, in naming an emoji as the word of the year, has noticed the McLuhan message—the shift in our discourse. Acknowledging this shift allows us to monitor and check the effect it may create, good or bad. Once viewed as juvenile and left to the kids, emojis have now been adopted by politicians. In a recent tweet, Hillary Clinton called for people to describe their feelings on student loans in three emojis. Even so, few politicians would use an emoji on a matter of serious public concern. Even Clinton’s emoji attempt received criticism for treating the topic of debt with flippancy. Emojis are light and playful, and can imbue an otherwise serious message with irony or wit.

Esperanto reincarnated?

It’s strange that these emojis, which have been around since 1999, have surged in popularity in 2015. This year, we have seen global political upheavals and threats, a huge migrant crisis, and the effects of climate change. But, as in any time of trouble or war, escapism is sought through art and culture. During World War II, musical films surged in popularity; Hollywood produced seventy-five musicals in 1944. So perhaps it’s not surprising that we are adopting this universal discourse in an effort to lighten the mood. The language of emojis allows us a certain tone that we cannot grasp through words or other imagery. And what’s more, in its transcending of cultures, emojis are a unifying language. This digital expression can fuse together cracks in failing traditional systems: a reincarnated Esperanto.

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Word of the day!

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meliorism
MEEL-yuh-riz-uhm, MEE-lee-uh-

–noun

the doctrine that the world tends to become better or may be made better by human effort.

Quotes

For a life worthy to be lived is one that is full of active aspiration, for something higher and better; and such a contemplation of the world we call meliorism.
— Paul Carus , Monism and Meliorism , 1885

The leaders rejected the soft meliorism of more secular activists, the idea that significant progress could be made through consciousness-raising and education campaigns, through consensus and gradual reform.
— David Brooks , “The Ideas Behind the March,” The New York Times , 2013

Origin

Meliorism entered English in the late 1800s. It comes from the Latin word melior meaning “better.”

Misspelling of the Year 2013 (great article from Dictionary.com, Enjoy!)

Misspelling of the Year 2013
To explore the psyche of a people, do not look at what they do–look at what they do wrong. Today, we introduce the Misspelling of the Year. A word that was looked up misspelled significantly more this year than the year before. A word with lots of different misspellings. A word in the news. The word: furlough.

In 2013, Dictionary.com saw tens of thousands of lookups of this word, often spelled without the ugh. Though the correct spelling is furlough, three variants ballooned in lookup volume: furlow was looked up 66 percent more in 2013 than it was in 2012, and furlo was looked up 60 percent more. We can’t calculate how many more times ferlow, which was in the top 10,000 words of 2013, was searched for because no one was searching for it in 2012.

The main reason folks were talking about furloughs was the October shutdown of the US government (sequester and sequestration searches also jumped 2.3 and 2.8 times relative to last year, but no one was misspelling those).

As for the misspellings. Well, it’s a rough road. The first uses in English were close to the Dutch: vorloffe and fore-loofe in the 1630s. You also get furloghs, furlows, and foreloffs in the early centuries of its use. Why on earth would we pronounce it “oh” but spell it “ough”? Cough cough. That’s tough. Though I have a few thoughts. Let’s step under this lovely bough. (It’s not as bad as it could be: hiccup was standardly spelled as hiccough for a few hundred years.) There are a lot of ways to say ‘g’, but we can’t go into all of them here.

Furlough wasn’t the only word that was giving folks trouble in 2013. In reviewing Dictionary.com’s misspellings of the year (I’d prefer to call them “nonstandard spellings” but the Spelling Despots among you would be at me with pitchphorks), three categories for types of misspellings emerged:

Prefix/suffix troubles

PERJUDICE and PERDJUICE for prejudice (think “pre judge” not “smoothie of perdition”)
PERCISE for precise (the -cise here is like in incision, so think “pre cut”)
ADAMIT for adamant (think “Wolverine has adamantium claws, not adamittens”)
AMETURE for amateur (the ama is about love, the -teur is for a doer, like actor in French is acteur; so think “French lover”)
Missing letters

AQUAINTED for acquainted (from the 1300s to about 1600 it didn’t have a “c” in English, you were born too late)
IFARED for infrared (awesome, don’t ever change)
TONSILECTOMY for tonsillectomy (two tonsils, two l’s to remove them)
ACHIEVMENT for achievement (spell “achieve” then add “ment”)
HIERACHICAL for hierarchical (sound it out?)
Just plain hard

EARY for eerie (at the end of the 18th century, suddenly English writers decided this word really needed a double “e,” sorry)
THROROUGH for thorough (this is probably just a typo)
INDITE for indict (the ending is related to dictionary or dictate–it’s talking about “saying,” you’re declaring an accusation)
IMAGRATION for immigration (look for “migrant” inside the word)
Studying nonstandard spellings also suggests some words that need to exist. An argu(e)ment can be made that assertation is a misspelling of assertion, but I would like to think it means something else. Like when someone just goes on and on asserting stuff to point that it feels like they’re reading you a dissertation.

But the word that is the best word in the whole data set and most needs your use and definitions: indiscrepancy. Go get it, Internet.

Language crimes…

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Thusly

Because both thus and thusly are adverbs, language aficionados find thusly unnecessary. The Chicago Manual of Style discourages the use of thusly altogether. For copyeditors, spotting the word thusly has a cringe-inducing effect similar to hearing fingernails on a chalkboard.

Language crimes to watch out for…

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Irregardless

Irregardless is considered nonstandard because of the two negative elements, ir- and -less. Irregardless first appeared in the early 20th century and was perhaps popularized by its use in a comic radio program from the 1930s. Use regardless to keep your grammar-loving friends at bay.

Lexical Investigations: Nobel

Lexical Investigations: Nobel

When it comes to the word noble, the senses “royal” and “distinguished” are probably quite familiar, but there are many other uses of this word that might surprise you. Just as a noble person of virtue can resist manipulation, since the 14th century, stones and metals that resist corrosion are also said to be noble. Noble in this sense came to be synonymous with nonreactive. The noble gases were given their name in the late nineteenth century because at the time they were thought to be chemically nonreactive. Similarly, in falconry, a noble hawk is one who does not chase prey but rather swoops down on it. Over time, many people have excepted the phrase “noble hawk” to mean the bird is majestic, but it actually comes from the bird’s ability not to be drawn into a chase by its prey.

In the mid-twentieth century, noble became US slang for a person who during a strike protects or organizes those crossing the picket lines to work. This slang might have come from the senses of detached or nonreactive, or it might be a sarcastic use of the regal, high-class sense.

The word nobel is also commonly confused with the the Nobel Prize (named for Alfred Nobel who founded it), though the two words are of no relation.

Word of the Day!

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Hope everyone is enjoying your Sunday! Here’s your word of the day…

Sisyphean
[ sis-uh-FEE-uhn ]
Definition: endless and unavailing, as labor or a task.
– adjective
endless and unavailing, as labor or a task.
of or pertaining to Sisyphus.

Examples:
Alongside the futile Sisyphean trials of his fellow men, the song of suicide could only beckon. But again, he said no.
– Claire Messud, The Last Life , 2000
Making himself useful as always, he took upon himself the Sisyphean task of keeping all those Modernist surfaces sparkling.
– Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex , 2002

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