The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

RSS feeds: v0.91; v1.0 (RDF); v2.0; Atom.

Previous entry. Next entry.

2:06pm on Friday, 1st September, 2017:



Consider the sentences "There once was a man who owned a car." and "There once was a company which owned a car.". You use "who" for the man, because he's a person, but "which" for the company, because it's not a person.

Now consider the sentence "This is the man whose car was stolen.". What's the equivalent for a company?

What it should be is "This is the company whiches car was stolen", but there's no such word in English. Instead, you either have to go with "whose" (and so imply that the company is a person, which it's not) or to take the same route as languages that don't have possessives and say "This is the company, the car of which was stolen". Given that the latter is clumsy, people tend to use the former; I myself go with the latter as I feel it undermines the word "who" if people use "whose" in reference to inanimate objects. Also, it jars even more when used for abstract nouns ("I liked her attitude, whose forthrightness I found refreshing.").

What I really want is a "whiches".

What's annoying about this is that Middle English did have the word "whiches" in the sense that I want to use it. There's a record of a 1387 sermon by Thomas Wimbledon that includes the line: "Kyng Achab slow þe pore man Nabyoth, for he wolde nouȝt sille hym his vyneȝerd Vpon whiches processe þus seiþ Seynt Ambrose, 'How fer wole ȝe riche men strecche ȝoure coueytise?'. ". [Translation: King Achab slew the poor man Nabyoth, for he would not sell him his vineyard, upon the process of which said Saint Ambrose, 'How far will you rich men stretch your covetousness?'.] That "whiches" is exactly what I want, but I had to translate "whiches process" to "the process of which". Somewhere along the line, Middle English's common-sense word was lost and we had to use an ill-fitting word instead or rephrase the sentence.

I also want a word that means the same as "where" but that doesn't suggest it's referring to a place, so I don't see "This is the episode where Joffrey gets slapped."; "in which" is, sadly, two words, and therefore a word too long for most people.

There is actually a word "whiches" in modern English, but it means more than one occurrence of the word "which", as in "How many whiches were there in that book?".

I feel the language is deliberately mocking me.

Latest entries.

Archived entries.

About this blog.

Copyright © 2017 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).