Language Gaffes in the Media


QUESTION: What do Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, President Obama, and journalists Gloria Borger and Renée Montagne have in common?

ANSWER: They all need to learn the difference between who and whom.

  • Alex Trebek commenting on a previous Jeopardy winner: “She didn’t know who she’d be facing.”

Correction: She didn’t know whom she’d be facing.

  • President Obama in his announcement about refugees: “The US is increasing the number of refugees who we welcome within our borders.”

Correction: The US is increasing the number of refugees whom we welcome within our borders.

  • Gloria Borger (CNN) speaking about Justice Scalia’s replacement on the Supreme Court: “I do think who the President nominates matters.”

Correction: I do think whom the President nominates matters.

  • Renée Montagne (NPR) asks, “Who do you hear people blaming for the accidental bombing of the Afghani hospital?”

Correction: Whom do you hear people blaming for the accidental bombing of the Afghani             hospital?

GRAMMAR RULEWho is nominative and is used for subjects and predicate nominatives.

Whom is objective and is used for direct and indirect objects and for objects

of phrases.

See: The Cooper Hill Stylebook § 6.


QUESTION: What do Senator Ted Cruz, President Obama, and Republican strategist Carl Rowe    have in common?

ANSWER: Grammar problems. Their subjects don’t agree with their verbs.

GRAMMAR RULE: Singular subjects must take singular verbs See Stylebook §1.

• Senator Ted Cruz campaigning in Iowa: “Do you want to know how much each of you terrify Washington?”

Correction: “Do you want to know how much each of you terrifies Washington?”

(The  word each is singular.)

• President Obama: “So far the data shows” that the crime level has essentially not risen.

Correction: “So far the data show” that the crime level has essentially not risen.

(The  word data is singular.)

• Republican strategist Carl Rowe referring to Donald Trump’s attacks against Ben Carson and Marco Rubio: “Neither one of these attacks are particularly effective.”

Correction:  Neither one of these attacks is particularly effective.”

(Neither one is singular.)

Journalists Confused about Between and Among

Grammar rule: between refers to 2, among refers to more than 2.

• Steve Inskeep (NPR) referred to the “shared interest between Iraq, Iran, and Russia.”

Correction: among Iran, Iraq, and Russia

  • Tom Gjelten (NPR) spoke about 3 immigrant boys who “between them” shared basic American traits.

Correction: among them

  • Bill Hemmer (Fox) commenting on Republican presidential candidates: “Between Bush, and Kassich, and Christie, there’s a lot of pressure.”

Correction: among Bush, and Kassich, and Christie….

  • Lauren Frayer (NPR) reporting on the trial of Spain’s Princess Cristina: “They had to clear a path between all the TV cameras.”

Correction: among all the TV cameras