On his blog yesterday (in “That which is restrictive”), Stan Carey reported that on Monday
The Guardian’s Mind your language blog firmly advocated the that/which pseudo-rule.
(that is, use the relativizer that for restrictive relatives, which for non-restrictives). Carey attacked the pseudo-rule on the Guardian’s blog and expanded his critique in yesterday’s (excellent) posting on his own blog. His wry postscript:
My comments at The Guardian helped convert at least one editor. This morning, I received confirmation of a second. One more, and I’ll call it a trend.
We can hope. Though some days it seems like a hopeless battle. Especially while the pseudo-rule propagates itself through the schools.
Back on August 5th, the school my grand-daughter goes to (Bowman International School, a Montessori school, in Palo Alto) sent out its weekly newsletter The Friday Note with an interview with Opal (each week, students from different classes are interviewed by the newsletter staff — some upper elementary school students), plus one with upper elementary students Tina and Henry, who reported:
I went to a Language Arts lesson and it was fun. We learned the difference between “that” and “which”. We were taught when it is appropriate to use “that” and “which”. You use “which” in a clause and you use “that” to describe something in detail. In math this week I did follow up work on mean, median and mode. Mean is when you add all the numbers in the set and divide the numbers in a set. Mean is another word for average. Median is where you line all the numbers in the set from least to greatest and you pick the number that lies in the middle. Mode is the most frequent number in the set.
The kids explain mean, median, and mode clearly, but the lesson on that and which is seriously balled up. It’s upsetting that Fowler’s Rule is being taught to elementary school kids as fact, and possibly more upsetting that the prescription seems to have been mangled in transmission; I’d guess that what the kids carried away from the lesson was only that there’s something wrong with which. Many sighs.