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Words July 21

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Wisdom where you’d least expect it: An Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial about a retiring Supreme Court justice cautioned readers, “Beware of anybody who uses the word ‘holistic’ seriously.” That’s good advice. Even a blind hog finds an acorn. “Richard Roe, 24, the driver whom police say was drunk and traveling the wrong way on Interstate 360, spent most of his life in Springfield and still has relatives here … ” If whom is correct, then you should be able to recast the sentence using him, which is in the objective case, as is whom: Police say him was drunk and traveling the wrong way. But that’s clearly incorrect. What the police actually say is he was drunk and traveling the wrong way. The subjective who is needed. This sort of confusion is why some people say we should abandon whom except when it immediately follows a preposition, as in to whom it may concern. I lean that way myself on occasion. But then I’ll find myself enjoying the challenge of trying to use whom correctly in a more complicated context. We’ve had some good bouts, whom and I. Sometimes I win, sometimes it does. "An e-mail by Cooper that surfaced over the weekend in Newsweek magazine says Rove identified a certain woman as someone who apparently works at the CIA ... " It is e-mail, email or perhaps E-mail? Dictionaries diverge. In print journalism, e-mail predominates, as in the example above, but the Cambridge Guide to English usage found that email is more common on the Internet. In fact, if you ask Google about e-mail, you get a question in return: "Did you mean email?" So the correct form is still being contested, and for the time being, one can use either e-mail or email without fear of reprimand. Eventually, one or the other will prevail, I suppose. Speaking of journalistic usage, a reader points out that some local journalists persist in referring to "the Little Rock Air Force Base." "It's simply Little Rock Air Force Base," he writes. "To use 'the' in the name is same as saying 'I live in the Little Rock.'"

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