Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Alright, I have had it with certain people. Whence my anger? Well, the phrase "from whence" has now entered the English language. I have now seen it in a few places. One being the movie version of Lord of The Rings. We all know that Tolkien would never had used "from whence". Why? Let me explain.

According to the Oxford Reference Grammar of the English Langauge section, "whence" is a wh-adverb some of which introduce relative clauses. First point of grammar, a preposition like "from" must take the accusative case (strictly known in English grammar as the "objective" case). Adverbs have no case because they are not nouns and thus cannot be the objects of prepositions. If you think that words like "since" (see Oxford Reference Grammar of the English Language 10.10) are prepositions, you would be wrong. "Since" is a conjunction not a preposition. Second point of grammar, with a definition of "from where", saying "from whence" would be like saying "from from where", which is incorrect. In fact, "from whence" is saying the same thing twice.

Why has this happened? Well, it is because "whence" is not a part of our everyday language in these times. We know that it is an old and high register usage so when we are trying to be clever and show other people that we have a deeper understanding of our language to impress them, we try to use it. The only problem is that because we do not use it anymore, we do not remember how, so we use something from our everyday language, which is similar in meaning, to help us. This puts pressure on the word so that it will probably fall out of the language completely soon.

Until it does fall out of the language, please be mindful or at least knowledgable about how to use our old friend "whence". His time may be at an end but that does not mean we have to disrepect him in his final years.

posted by Chris  #4:34 PM | 0 comments |