Thursday, March 17, 2011

Playing in the Margins

In a future (and a present) where books are delivered by Kindle and iPad, what is to become of those manic scribblers who like to graffiti the pages of their books with marginalia? The gabfesters at Slate podcasted about this very topic awhile back, and today I see this Atlantic piece about the (possible) demise of obsessive literary back-chat. The blogster in question, Kevin Charles Redmon (and since when do you need three names to write a blog post?), spends some time examining the merits of --and the vituperative scorn heaped upon--the Kindle's collective annotating feature, "popular highlights."
And if you don't trust the wiki of would-be English lit professors—191 of who, I see, have highlighted Franzen's thesis in Freedom, "The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage"—well, turn the feature off. 
There's that pesky who/whom problem again. This seems like a case of hyper-correction, with the author figuring that since the stripped-down sentence would read "professors who have highlighted Franzen's thesis" he is probably on solid ground to stay with the subjective who. But if we use the handy substitution test and try other subjective/objective pairings, the miscue surfaces like a tell-tale blue line on a home pregnancy test pee-stick. For although it's fine to write, "they have highlighted Franzen's thesis," you would never say "191 of they have highlighted Franzen's thesis"--unless of course you suffered from a debilitating neurological impairment. We know without a doubt that it should be the objective them--our ears tell us so. The objective case it is, then, which means whom is the pronoun of choice.