Who v. Whom

This is one of the elements of English grammar that has always thrown me. I usually say “Who” regardless, because I think constructions like “To whom have you been speaking” sound ridiculous.

But now my Oxford Seminar course has given me a great test, so at least I’ll know if I’m incorrect, and then I can just be brazen about it.

While whom is sometimes disregarded as antiquated British English, it is actually the object case for the pronoun who. Although native English speakers often use who for both the subject and object cases of the pronoun, this is not strictly correct.

Consider the following question:

Who opened the door? or Whom opened the door?

An appropriate response to the question is “He opened the door.” As a subject-case pronoun was used in the response, the question should be posed “Who opened the door?”.

So, did you get that?

If I have a question like “Who opened the door?”, to test my “who/whom” choice, I would think about the answer. In this case “Him opened the door” would not work. The correct statement would be “He opened the door.”

He –> Who

Him –> Whom (notice that “m” ending)

So here’s a test:

Who/Whom did I give my letter to?

Hint: The answer is “her.” I gave my letter to her. So “Whom” would be correct for my question—although I would never say this outside of an English class because it sounds ridiculous to my commoner’s ear.

“To whom did I give the letter?”

Nope, I’m still going to say: Who did I give the letter to?

Yes, you can end a sentence with a preposition!

I’m taking the Oxford Seminar TEFL course, and yesterday I learned about the proper use of prepositions.

Some grammar sticklers have cat fits when you end a sentence with a preposition, but I’ve noticed that there are just times when the language becomes stilted and archaic not to do so.

Enter the phrasal verb. This little guy is causing all the trouble. He is at the root of many a bad argument between editors and writers, and not a few hurt feelings!

My training manual explains:

In English grammar, a phrasal verb is a group of words that consists of a verb plus an adverbial or prepositional participle. If you eliminate any component of the phrasal verb, you cannot interpret the intended meaning.

I like their examples too:

Most bullies back down if confronted. (This works!)
Most bullies back. (This does not work.)
Most bullies down. (This does not work.)
Must bullies back down. (Yep, there’s that preposition, and it works!)

There are many, many, many phrasal verbs in English.

Here are a few:

act up
ask out
bring up
back off
check out
chip in
drop off
drop out
eat out
egg on
face up to
find out
give up
grow up

You get the idea. And I bet you can think of many instances where we would use these at the end of our sentences.

The only time it is incorrect to use a preposition at the end of your sentence is when you leave the thought unfinished.

Their example is:

“She is going to come with.”

This is incorrect because the thought has been left unfinished.

When I was growing up in Texas, I always heard constructions like this:

Where are you going to be at?

Here the “at” is unnecessary. The correct version is: “Where are you going to be?”

But “Your raft is on fire; you should jump off!” is perfectly acceptable.

Oxford Seminars advises:

If you’re in doubt about whether or not a sentence is grammatically correct with a preposition at the end, try to rewrite the sentence and change the preposition. If the result is grammatically incorrect or is incomprehensible, then it is generally acceptable to revert to your original phrasing and end the sentence with a preposition.


Afternoon photos

My husband, still brain injured, is going through photos from our trip this summer. He is picking out all the unflattering ones of me, of which, sadly, there are a plenty. He loves these photos, with me my face squinched up in pain, sunburned, eyes in slits, grimacing, cold. He sits and laughs at them and calls to me: hey, you gotta see this!

I wonder, is this what love is? To somehow see something appealing in something, well, not?

I remind him that beautiful women can’t take photos like that.

He doesn’t say anything, but keeps sorting, laughing, and saving.

It’s hard these days. I don’t want a new normal. Sometimes I’m afraid that’s what we’re facing—as I cling to the past. Time tramples over us, and I think, if only I could go to Scotland and see some castles. Maybe I’d come back with a nice accent instead of a tan.

If I was going to start a movement…

Well, there are tons of things I’d like to set right, but today, tonight, it’s the whole of Western medicine. If everyone who reads this could consider their last doctor’s experience and then if they felt as wronged as I do, simply write one letter stating what happened and how/why you feel ripped off, and make three copies of it.

The first copy should be sent to your doctor. The second copy should be sent to your congressman. The third copy should be sent to your local news outlet.

I won’t tell you what to say. All of our stories are different. Some common threads though are these:

We pay too much for the service we get.

Doctors are often unprepared and insensitive.

They don’t spend enough time with us.

They don’t hear us out.

They judge us based on our profession.

They don’t have good listening skills.

They aren’t empathetic.

They are pharmaceutical drug pushers.

They apply band-aid treatments instead of getting to root cause.

They insult our intelligence.

They insult us in other ways.

They forget that we are in charge of our health.

They forget that we are hiring them, not the other way around.

Often they aren’t knowledgeable of natural treatments.

They are rude and interrupt us when we are trying to speak.

When prescribing drugs, they don’t explain the potential side effects.

They are not healers.

This is what’s wrong with health care in the United States.  The problem isn’t that everyone needs insurance. The problem is that we have given up our power and have handed over our wallets. We have stopped thinking critically when it comes to our own health.

But things have shifted in the last 20 years. Today we have the Internet. Today we have knowledge at our fingertips like never before. WE could change this. WE are the ones who pay.

If you or anyone you know has had any of these experiences, write a letter, make three copies, affix stamps, and send.

At the Heart of Personal Narrative

These lines were given to me (us) by a grad school professor. I don’t have any attribution to go with them. All I can say is I didn’t write them. They do such a good job of explaining what’s going on when people write memoirs that I’m recording them here.

In nonfiction, the writer has only the singular self to work with. So it is the other in oneself that the writer must seek and find to create movement, achieve a dynamic. Inevitably, the piece builds only when the narrator is involved not in confession but in this kind of self-investigation, the kind that means to provide motion, purpose, and dramatic tension. Here, it is self-implication that is required. To see one’s own part in the situation—that is, one’s own frightened or cowardly or self-deceived part—is to create the dynamic.

In the spirit of Halloween: The scariest piece of paper ever

It’s just one piece of paper with only a little bit of writing on the back.

In the top left corner is the logo. It says “epic.”

I have a coworker who always forces me to define words for her—on the spot. I usually struggle with this. I know the word, but coming up with a dictionary definition is difficult.


It means “noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition.”


“heroic, majestic, impressively great”


“of unusual great size or extent”

and slang:

“spectacular, awesome”

What epic has to do with brain imaging, I’m still trying to figure out. Does it refer to the long struggle back to “normalcy”?

Or, does it refer to the struggle I face in controlling my temper, remaining impassively calm, even when my buttons are not only pushed, but stomped on?

Does it mean the massive death neurons or our dreams?

Further down it gives the date of the injury “with loss of consciousness.”

Then there is another vocabulary test:

Left globus pallidus
lentiform nucleus
hemispheric white matter
corpus callosum
lateral ventricle
third ventricle
downward herniation
sulcal spaces
intracranial flow voids
mastoid air cells
sulcal space dilation
ventricular dilation
diffuse volume loss
aqueduct of Sylvius
asymmetric mineralization

The report ends with what appears to be a question: Was calcification present or prior hemorrhage within the left lentiform nucleus? This seems to be the burning question. I don’t understand it, but it seems important.

I don’t think my boss understands how serious this is. I feel it over the miles between us. It doesn’t matter, I tell myself. Everything has changed. I live in fear of the “A” word. For days I’ve been haunted by it. What if it’s “A.” What if there was calcification on the left lentiform nucleus prior to the fall, prior to the concussion. Haven’t all the symptoms been there before? Haven’t I been noticing them for years? The appointment with a “real” doctor is a week away. Do we want the truth? Will the truth make us free?