03 March 2010

Whose

Learned something new the other day while editing a client's manuscript. I love that.

I ran across this sentence:

The Mann-Whitney test was performed to identify genes whose expression was altered during allergen exposure.

I stopped short at "whose", thinking "WHAT?! 'whose' should refer to a person, right? A 'gene' is not a person. I need to fix this."

Unable to come up with a rewording that I liked, I went looking for an alternative to 'whose'. Strunk and White had nothing to say on the matter. Likewise, the 9th Edition of the AMA Style Guide.

Stymied, I turned to Google. (When Strunk & White fail you, what else is there, right?)

And I found Grammar Girl! Grammar Girl had this excellent explanation of why 'whose' is, in fact, perfectly fine. Shakesphere used it this way. So did Milton. I won't bore you with repeating what Grammar Girl has already explained well, but the gist of it is: English doesn't have a relative pronoun for use with inanimate objects.

Which I find absolutely fascinating! (Yes, I am a certifiable geek....) We clearly have a need for such a thing, and yet we have only this uncomfortable stand-in. How did that ever happen? WHY did that ever happen? Will we, eventually, ever do anything about it? Like come up with something else. If we did, what would it be?

*sighs*

Ah, the things one can wonder about once the children are abed...

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3 comments:

usha.digitalinfo said...
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usha.digitalinfo said...
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usha.digitalinfo said...
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