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Whom abuse – by The Clash

October 19, 2015

This morning I was driving in my car (which I like doing) and The Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go? came on the radio. I’ve heard the song many times before, but today for the first time the line Exactly whom I’m supposed to be jumped out at me.

Whom? Now that is odd. I’ve blogged about “whom abuse” before. But I never expected Mick Jones to be a perpetrator. Strictly speaking whom is wrong there, because the verb to be doesn’t take an accusative. That rule is nearly always broken in speech: we all say It’s me rather than It is I. So maybe Mick Jones could argue that he’s just being colloquial, using whom instead of who, just as one uses me instead of I in that context. But whom just doesn’t sound colloquial, and really I don’t think a punk band has any business using it at all, either rightly or wrongly.

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