Friday, July 01, 2005

Litter It Is Loveliest

As someone who has never been able to wrap my brain around the proper usages of "who" and "whom," no matter how many dozens of times it has been explained to me, I have some sympathy for the many writers on the internet who fall into the it's-its conundrum.

Here's a word of advice. If you find yourself hopelessly confused on the issue, then just don't ever use an apostrophe with "its" ever again. If you mean "it is," then just write "it is" rather than "it's," which is the proper contraction. If you are using "its" as a possessive, as in "its beauty and its craftsmanship," it also doesn't have an apostrophe. There. Problem solved.

Still, it is amazing that the signage which has been displayed all over San Francisco's City Hall for the last month has the "it's" mistake on every last piece of glossy, expensively printed material. And nobody caught it. At the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services, which sponsored the art event, I asked if anybody had pointed out the boo-boo and was told no.

The signage was directing people to the top floor of City Hall where there was an art show that was put up in concert with the "World Environment Week" festivities at the beginning of June.

The exhibit featured sculptural art from a show in Hamburg, Germany where all the pieces were constructed from "recycled" materials.

Some of the pieces were quite beautiful.

Others were what I would call Tormented Teutonic.

A chair made out of used books was wonderful.

Possibly the most amusing piece was a deconstructed bathroom sitting on the floor surrounded by the Beaux Arts splendor of City Hall. It brought to mind all kinds of metaphors but I think I'll leave that one alone.

The show isn't (is not) going to be up much longer, so check it out soon.


Anonymous said...

I had the same problem with "who" and "whom," and finally it was explained to me thus:

If the question can be answered grammatically with the word "he," then the correct usage is "who," as in "Who is at the door?" "He is at the door."

Likewise, if the answer is "him," the correct usage is "whom," as in "Whom did you see at the movies?" "I saw him." That one's a little stodgy but still correct. Hope this helps.

The other one that's a cringe-inducer: "The teacher stopped to talk to Mary and I."

Civic Center said...

Dear nvogel:

Thank you so much for the memory trick, and it's helpful, but I'm going to continue following my own advice, which is to NEVER use "whom" because I'm sure I'll screw it up.

In other words, instead of writing "Whom did you see at the movies?" I would write "Who was at the movie theatre? Did you see anyone you know?"

Thanks again for trying to get it through my head, however.

Anonymous said...

ASDF is coming soon! Don't be left behind!