Are They Who or Are They That?
Recently, after listening to chatter all around me, I started to wonder: When did “that” become a proxy for “who” and when did a “reason” become redundant as in “the reason why”?
Yesterday, watching the evening news, I heard two commentators discuss a personal problem. The first talking-head (I’ll call him John) said to the second one (how about Jim?), “I have a good friend that has dealt with that issue.” So my question was born. When did Jim’s good friend go from being “who” to becoming “that”? Similarly, another on-the-air reporter, in discussing an upcoming election, suggested, “People that plan to vote before work can do so as early as 7:00 a.m., in some districts plus there are a lot of bosses that will allow their employees time off to vote.”
To the best of my recollection, when I was learning English and grammar, people always were referred to as “who” and objects as, “that.” And exactly what is it about all those folks who plan to vote? Might we not be more respectful if we were to regarding them as people and therefore as, “who.” Maybe the reporter could have suggested that, “People who plan to vote…” or even, “Some employees are fortunate and have bosses who give them time off in order to vote.”?
Fortunately, for now, I’ve only embarked upon my correct grammar rant. Owing to the fact that my list of complaints concerning the deterioration of everyday American English is feeling limitless, I’ll focus on only the two here — who and that. Additional pet peeves are sure to appear in future posts so stay tuned or rather, come back for many more visits.