who(so)ever, whom(so)ever; *whoso(ever), *whomso(ever). Part A: Choice of Term. The forms “whoever” and “whomever” are preferred in modern writing. But the archaisms *”whosoever” and *”whomsoever,” as well as *”who(m)so,” appear sometimes in legalese. Often these terms are superfluous, as here: “This is a right that avails against all persons whomsoever [delete ‘whomsoever’] in the world.” Better: “This is a right against everyone else in the world.” Part B: Case. The problem of proper case arises, just as it does with “who” and “whom.” E.g.: “Whomever is [read ‘Whoever is’] responsible for implementing the program is responsible for its faults.” The Oxford Guide to English Usage contains this rather poor advice: “Use ‘whoever’ for the objective case as well as the subjective, rather than ‘whomever,’ which is rather stilted” (p. 135). Stilted, perhaps, but correct — and really not very stilted in formal prose. Part C: Possessives. “Whosever” is the traditionally correct form, but it’s very much on the wane. “Whoever’s” is now the preferred colloquial form — e.g.: o “‘Whoever’s bullpen does better is the team that’s going to win that West.'” Chuck Ashmun, “Sideline Chatter,” Seattle Times, 29 May 1997, at C2 (quoting Bip Roberts of the Kansas City Royals). o “‘Whoever’s team loses has to follow the other guy around (in the post-season),’ [Dwight] Gooden said.” Marc Topkin, “Gooden Doesn’t Know Where He’ll Be in ’98 Series,” St. Petersburg Times, 7 Oct. 1997, at C4. Most strictly, “whoever’s” is a contraction of “whoever is” (or, less commonly, “whoever has”) — e.g.: “One or two members work on equipment, whoever’s left keeps the weapon close and an eye out for any 1,500-pound ursid wearing a white coat.” Peter N. Spotts, “Arctic Scientists Tread Softly Around Natives,” Christian Science Monitor, 23 Oct. 1997, at 3. *Invariably inferior form. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. Quotation of the Day: “Definitions . . . are like steps cut in a steep slope of ice, or shells thrown on to a greasy pavement; they give us foothold, and enable us to advance, but when we are at our journey’s end we want them no longer.” Samuel Butler, “Thought and Language” (1890), in The Importance of Language 13 (Max Black ed., 1962).
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