According to a recent Wired magazine article on how to create the perfect online dating profile, men who use the pronoun “whom” in their profiles get 31% more responses from women than those who don’t.
Linguistics professor and Slate.com contributor Geoff Pullum took this concept and had a field day with it, pointing out that the study didn’t analyze whether or not “whom” had been used correctly – it just seems to be sexy on its own. He goes on to (half-jokingly?) encourage men to use it whenever possible to get the ladies.
I thought Pullum’s article was hysterical, and it also made an interesting point or two along the way. But I have to admit that for me, using “whom” isn’t a turn-on – in fact, if I were dating someone who liberally sprinkled “whom” in his conversation, I’d probably find it as noxious as spraying on too much cologne. I love literature, poetry, the English language in general. And I do, on occasion, use “whom” – but in writing, and never in casual situations. Regardless of its grammatical role, it seems like such a stodgy, old-fashioned word.
Strangely, though, I actually like “old-fashioned”, at least to some degree. My husband won my heart because of our shared love of history and antiquing, for example. On the other hand, in the seven and a half years we’ve been together, I’ve never heard him say “whom”.
I’m not alone in my ambivalence about “whom” on the dating scene. The comments on Pullum’s story feature many people who feel the same. For many of us, using “whom” in informal conversation may be a sign of pretentiousness, or simply a ploy to sound smarter. Not that this is easy; as Pullum points out, even respected writers and journalists sometimes make mistakes with this tricky term.
But are there some words or expressions that would catch my attention and make me contact someone on an online dating site? In addition to ones that would mean shared interests (notably: “books”, “chocolate”, “cats”, and “Mystery Science Theater 3000”), I actually think there might be. Here’s a short list:
– Puns. Not the word, but actual puns. Yes, they can be corny, and obviously you don’t want to be around someone who always makes them, but generally speaking, I do enjoy a good pun. Plus, the ability to make them seems like more of a sign of intelligence than just inserting a word like “whom” into the conversation.
– Speaking another language. This isn’t a must for me, but it is a bonus. When you’re in a relationship with someone who speaks a second language, it can be a really cool learning experience, in addition to all that other romantic stuff.
– Never saying “Not for nothing”. I have no idea why this expression bothers me, and lots of people I know use it, but…it always sets my teeth on edge. Dating someone who never says this would be a definite plus.
– Creativity with obscenity. People who can go beyond the usual “bad words” and make new and unexpected hybrids get all my respect. It’s an art.
– “spirit photography”. I think anyone who regularly talks about spirit photography would probably be a pretty interesting person.
What about you? Do you have any verbal turn-ons? Does the word “whom” make you swoon?