No, it should be "… to whom to turn"

« previous post | next post »

A recent New Yorker cartoon, courtesy of Paul Kendall:

Presumably there's someone else, standing out-of-frame on the left, incorrecting the incorrection: "No, it should be "She's driving me crazy and I'm not sure to whom to turn". And then yet another participant, asserting the artificiality of the prohibition against preposition-stranding. And a fifth party to chime in about the death of whom . . .


  1. Alacritas said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 1:35 am

    It's turtles all the way down!

  2. marie-lucie said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 3:19 am

    There is no one outside the frame. This is about marital incompatibility. He is writing to someone about her, complaining that he does not know "who" to turn to, and she reads over his shoulder and "corrects" what he has written about her, ignoring the content of his message. Correcting his grammar is more important to her than his complaint that she is driving him crazy – presumably by such an attitude.

  3. Alan said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 3:35 am

    IAMNALinguist but I notice that a lot of people seem to think that "who" should be replaced with "whom" in formal writing and speech.

  4. Marion Crane said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 5:08 am

    @ marie-lucie: Yes, and Mark is extrapolating on that; he's not giving an interpretation of the on-screen activity.

    @Alan: What, always? *shudders*

  5. D.O. said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 7:26 am

    Well, the answer is clear. The Language Log!

  6. E W Gilman said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 9:12 am

    It is interesting to me to find preposition stranding come up for mention here when just the other day I ran into this note in a letter by Horace Walpole:

    Line 449, and line 452, should I think be corrected, as ending with
    prepositions, disjoined from the cases they govern.
    to Robert Dodsley. 4 Nov. 1753

    I think the mention of cases suggests the influence of Latin way back then.

  7. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 9:54 am

    Having read this, I can now no longer stop singing to myself the Magnetic Fields' "With Whom to Dance"..

  8. John Baker said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 10:15 am

    Would it really be an incorrection to write, "She's driving me crazy and I'm not sure to whom to turn"? Pedantic, yes, but an incorrection?

  9. marie-lucie said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 11:09 am

    MCrane: a) I am glad to hear that!

    b) Yes, always, (or at least where they remember to use it), in the belief that "whom" is the correct form everywhere. After all, the King James Bible is full of "whom"s, including "whomsoever". The many occurrences of "who" there do not seem to be noticed.

    EWG: this quote from 1753 dates from the period when the Latin-like structure was beginning to be recommended as the more elegant in writing, although preposition stranding was not yet considered the cardinal sin it later became. (See for instance David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, insert p. 79).

  10. Arnold Zwicky said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

    On my blog, "Who(m) to V" here

  11. Bloix said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

    Who can I turn to
    When nobody needs me
    My heart wants to know
    So I must go
    Where destiny leads me
    With no star to guide me
    And no one beside me

    Who Can I Turn To, by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley (made famous by Tony Bennett)

  12. Ralph Hickok said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

    April in Paris . . .
    Whom can I run to?
    What have you done to
    My heart?
    As written by Yip Harburg and sung by Ella and Mel Torme, among others.

  13. DEP said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

    Uh, should be "She is driving me crazy, [comma] and I'm not sure whom to turn to."

  14. Roger Lustig said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

    Well, I guess she looks a little like Joan A…

  15. Terrence Lockyer said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

    "Will I get in your way,
    or open your eyes?
    Who will give whom
    the bigger surprise."
    – Pet Shop Boys, 'Young Offender' (Very, 1993)

  16. Terrence Lockyer said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

    And of course that should be a question mark after "surprise".

  17. Chris Henrich said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 9:06 pm


    "Whom shall I say is calling?" he asked, for he had been to college and knew the importance of correct grammar.

    — some humorist, possibly Ring Lardner

  18. Chris C said,

    May 26, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

    Jenny, Jenny, who can I turn to?
    –Tommy Tutone

  19. Once again, same-sex relationships in the New Yorker | Arnold Zwicky's Blog said,

    June 30, 2013 @ 11:56 am

    […] has appeared in this blog before, in "Famous models" of 12/11/12 (and on Language Log, here). But I posted on Language Log back in 2008 on a Barry Blitt cover (with Michelle and Barack Obama) […]

RSS feed for comments on this post