Edward Sapir > Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech > Subject Index > Page 168
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Edward Sapir (1884–1939).  Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech.  1921.
 

Page 168
 
we indulge our sneaking desire for the forbidden locution by the use of the “who” in certain twilight cases in which we can cover up our fault by a bit of unconscious special pleading. Imagine that some one drops the remark when you are not listening attentively, “John Smith is coming to-night.” You have not caught the name and ask, not “Whom did you say?” but “Who did you say?” There is likely to be a little hesitation in the choice of the form, but the precedent of usages like “Whom did you see?” will probably not seem quite strong enough to induce a “Whom did you say?” Not quite relevant enough, the grammarian may remark, for a sentence like “Who did you say?” is not strictly analogous to “Whom did you see?” or “Whom did you mean?” It is rather an abbreviated form of some such sentence as “Who, did you say, is coming to-night?” This is the special pleading that I have referred to, and it has a certain logic on its side. Yet the case is more hollow than the grammarian thinks it to be, for in reply to such a query as “You’re a good hand at bridge, John, aren’t you?” John, a little taken aback, might mutter “Did you say me?” hardly “Did you say I?” Yet the logic for the latter (“Did you say I was a good hand at bridge?”) is evident. The real point is that there is not enough vitality in the “whom” to carry it over such little difficulties as a “me” can compass without a thought. The proportion “I:me=he:him=who:whom” is logically and historically sound, but psychologically shaky. “Whom did you see?” is correct, but there is something false about its correctness.
  It is worth looking into the reason for our curious

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