Saturday, February 12, 2011

Colonies of Bacteria and the WHO Rides Again

What I'm reading right now: Popular Science March 2011 specifically, an article by Virginia Hughes called, Our Body the Ecosystem (hence the Colonies of Bacteria reference) with the amazing and iconic photography of Howard Schatz.

I once heard Dave Wolverton, aka Dave Farland say, parphrasing, "It always amazes me how many people tell me they want to write science fiction but they never read science magazines." Hence my subscription to Popular Science. I don't know that science fiction is where I want to direct my writing per se, but I certainly don't want to preclude myself from the genre either. I also have a long standing auto-recurring subscription to Psychology Today, great information in there about making your characters sound real.

(I'm eagerly looking forward to starting the Well of Ascension but I bought it on my Nook which I loaned out. I didn't realize how much I use it until I was without it.)

Plus, as a bonus, this month you get Howard Schatz. I would not have expected to find him in an issue of Popular Science. I have a number of his books.


To further our discussion on WHO vs. THAT, I've had some great comments and wanted to clarify a couple of things. I'm somewhat of a proponet of who clauses so I will generally lean to that side, however, before we go breaking any rules it is always prudent to know the rule.

Jordon was correct (as she usually is, check out her blog in my blog list to the left) in that sometimes you can use that when refering to a person, I just personally perfer not to and no one will ever fault you for using who instead of that (or likely notice), but I am a logophile and strive to use our maddening language to the best of my abilities. As a side note, the rules on WHICH vs. THAT are clear and immovable, but WHO vs. THAT allows for some wriggle room.

The following is from the reference book, A Grammar Book For You and I . . . oops, Me! by C. Edward Good.

p. 140

The Relatives: Mixing Them Up
We use who-whom-whose to refer to humans and that-which to refer to inanimate objects and abstractions. Thus:

          The woman who became CEO was admired by all.
          The idea that she suggested ultimately succeeded.
          The report that she wrote cinched the deal.

Living things closely associated with humans often receive the honor of who-whom-whose:

          Amber affectionately stroked her pet turtle, who curled up in front of the fire.


          Igor stomped on the cockroach that crawled along the floor.

Sometimes, however, we use that to refer to people, usually a generic type of person:

          The writers that learn these rules will improve their work.

Or you could use that to refer in a restrictive way to an identifiable person:

          The child that made the A addressed the class.

These days we never use which to refer to a person. Such usages as "Our Father, which art in heaven" are archaic.

< / quote >

As per the post in Wikipedia:

"[T]hat is found with both human and non-human antecedents. While some writers recommend reserving that for nonhuman antecedents, this does not reflect majority use. Examples can be found in Shakespeare (the man that hath no music in himself[1]), Mark Twain (The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg), and Ira Gershwin (The Man that Got Away)."

What most gets my attention in the quote above is ". . . this does not reflect majority use." That is the crux of my original post on WHO vs. THAT, the WHO is dying as the majority use THAT when it's appropriate and when it is not. I wonder how many realize the latter. I understand the evolving nature of language and that is one of the things I love about it, but there's also value in preserving our roots.

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