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I am a writer, editor, reviewer and dance teacher based in Perth, Western Australia. You might enjoy my books - The Dagger of Dresnia, the first book of the Talismans Trilogy, is available at all good online book shops. Book two, The Cloak of Challiver, will be available again shortly. Book three, The Seer of Syland, is in preparation. I trained in piano and singing at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. I also trained in dance (Scully-Borovansky, WAAPA) and drama (NIDA). Since 1987 I have been writing reviews of performances in all genres for a variety of publications, including Music Maker, ArtsWest, Dance Australia, The Australian and others. Now semi-retired, I still write occasionally for the ArtsHub website, and I still teach dance at Trinity School for Seniors, an outreach program of the Uniting Church in Perth.

My books

The first novel of my trilogy, The Talismans, is available as an e-book from Smashwords, Amazon and other online sellers. I do have paperbacks of The Dagger of Dresnia at the low price of $AU25 including postage within Australia. I also have a short story, 'La Belle Dame', in print - see Mythic Resonance below. Book two of the trilogy, The Cloak of Challiver, will be available again shortly. The best way to contact me is via Facebook!

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The first two books of The Talismans trilogy were published by Satalyte Publications, which, sadly, has gone out of business. Book one, The Dagger of Dresnia, is up on the usual bookselling web sites as an e-book, and I have a few hard copies to sell to those who prefer Real Paper. Book Two, The Cloak of Challiver, will be available soon. The easiest way to contact me is via Facebook.

The Dagger of Dresnia

The Dagger of Dresnia
Want a copy? Contact me at satimafn(at)gmail.com

The Cloak of Challiver

The Cloak of Challiver
Available again as an ebook soon!

Mythic Resonance

Buy Mythic Resonance

Mythic Resonance is an excellent anthology that includes my short story 'La Belle Dame', together with great stories from Alan Baxter, Donna Maree Hanson, Sue Burstynski, Nike Sulway and nine more fantastic authors! Just $US3.99 from Amazon. Got a Kindle? Check out Mythic Resonance.

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Sunday, 22 May 2011

Common misuses: pronouns – subject and object

Pronouns. Little words. But they can give writers – or, more likely, editors! – nasty headaches.

Look at "I" and "me". They fill me with despair. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve shuddered at things like “The boss gave Damien and I a rise last week” or “Chantal invited Jenny and I to her birthday bash”. This has become increasingly common in both England and Australia and no doubt in other English-speaking countries as well, and I suspect that within a few years even the Oxford Dictionary will give in and list it as normal usage.

You would never say “The boss gave I a rise” or “Chantal invited I”, would you? When in doubt, try taking out the first name. If it still sounds OK (as in Queen Elizabeth’s classic “My husband and I are very happy to be here", then you can safely say “Damien and I”.

That’s because “I” is the nominative case. It is used when the speaker is the one performing the action, such as the Queen (as above) being pleased. So “I invited Damien and Chantal to the barbeque” is correct. But if I’m one of the people being invited, “me” is the correct pronoun – Damien invited Chantal and me to the barbeque”.

Another misused family of pronouns includes who/whom and whoever/whomever. Here again, the first-named is the nominative case, as in “Who stole my pen?” The second of each pair is the objective case, and the problem is that usage is in the process of changing. For example, If I said “Did you know Jack’s been charged with assault?”, you might reply, “Who did he assault?” and no one would blink an eye. In fact, if you were to use the correct form “Whom did he assault?” you might even sound a bit old-fashioned and pedantic.

But there are times when many of us still use “whom”. For instance “Did you know Jared was assaulted last night?” might well draw the reply, “Assaulted by whom?” We’re tending, more and more, to use “whom” when it’s preceded by a preposition, but “who” when it’s not, and many people don’t use “whom” at all, preposition or no preposition. Or they use it in the wrong places, thinking it makes them sound more refined. In other words, many people haven’t got a clue about who and whom, and I suspect that within a few decades, “whom” will disappear altogether.

Whoever and whomever are of the same ilk. Basically, "whoever" is nominative; and "whomever" is objective.

But in practice it gets complicated.

The reason is that these words often turn up as subjects of subordinate clauses, so they have to be in the nominative case even if the clause itself is the object of the sentence. The rule is that agreement is always within the subordinate clause itself, even when that clause appears as the object of the main clause.

For example “Give the prize to whoever/whomever arrives first”. Now, on first glance, it’s tempting to use “whomever” because it appears to be the indirect object of the first clause.

BUT it is also the subject of its very own clause “whoever arrives first”. So “whoever” is the correct form here.

I cheerfully pinched some examples from http://www.englishforums.com/English/WhoeverVsWhomever/cxcp/post.htm which is part of a worthwhile site for all matters pertaining to English grammar.
Give it to whoever pays the highest price.
Give it to whomever you like best.
Introduce whoever you think is the tallest to whoever you think is the shortest.
Introduce whomever you invited first to whomever you invited last.
Introduce whoever arrived first to whoever arrived last.

While we’re examining who and whom and their kin, what about “whomsoever”? It’s rather a quaint, old-fashioned sort of word, dating right back to Chaucer’s day and possibly earlier, but it refuses to die altogether. It is pretty much interchangeable with who and whom in expressions such as “To whom/whomever/whomsoever it may concern”. The nominative form “whosoever” is very rare. More often, we use “whoever” in the nominative.

So, another part of our language that is changing – but it’s still advisable to use who/whoever and whom/whomever correctly in writing, even in places where you might not do so in speech – unless, of course, you’re writing colloquial dialogue!

8 comments:

Jo said...

As you already know, I too get the heebie jeebies about misuses of words, but I think it happens a lot more in the New World countries than in the old. Or does it? Maybe I am out of touch with what is said in Britain these days. However I think a lot of the problem stemmed from a couple of hundred years ago when the majority of the people being driven out of their countries for one reason or another were not educated people plus the melds with other nationalities, and you end up with a pretty hodge podge spoken language today.

Satima Flavell said...

Language changes all the time, Jo, and there's not much we can do about it. If it didn't change we'd still be speaking the way our grandparents did, or the way Dickens did, or Shakespeare, or Chaucer - how far back can we go?:)It's a natural process, but I do sometimes shake my head in despair at some of the directions it takes!

Jo said...

Actually there is an area in North Carolina, on the islands, where they are supposed to speak English they way they did when they landed in the time of Sir Walter Raleigh. I'm not sure, I can't understand them anyway LOL

Satima Flavell said...

I havent heard of those guys - will check 'em out! But you do those odd pockets of archaic language. The Black Country of Staffordshire is another one. They still pronounce many words the same as they were pronounced in Chaucer's time, and some of their verb use is pure Middle English.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I have heard of the North Carolina thing. In fact, I recommend Susan Cooper's novel "King Of Shadows" in which a boy actor from North Carolina time travels and finds himself in Shakespare's London, appearing in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream and nobody notices his accent is different, because it isn't.:-) Susan Cooper never mentioned it, but knowing about it, I suspected when I read that she had given us the boy's background deliberately!

Satima Flavell said...

Wow, what a neat idea for a plot, Sue! It just goes to show, inspiration is everywhere if we just open our eyes and ears! I'll have to check that one out!

Jo said...

As I mentioned before, the people of Harkers Island in North Carolina, are extremely difficult to understand - I am not sure how one would really compare their speech to Elizabethan days though. The people are supposed to have been 'deposited' there by Sir Walter Raleigh.

Satima Flavell said...

Linguists have clever ways of sussing out how language has changed over the years. One way we can all use is by reading rhyming poetry of the era to see the words they thought rhymed with each other - some of which we don't think rhyme today, as in Shakespeare's " Blow, blow, thou winter wind/Thou art not so unkind as Man's ingratitude".

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