A Word Please: Bye-bye, June gloom

On a recent afternoon I went to my local megaplex to see "Knight and Day." One thing had drawn me to the theater. It wasn't Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz I came to see. I'm not big fan of the action genre, either. No, my attraction to the movie was purely personal, rooted in a childhood trauma from which I have yet to recover.

Ever since I was a little girl, I've had an old-lady name. As far back as elementary school, I met people who said stuff like, "Hey, I have a great aunt named June!" Never aunt, mind you. Always great aunt or, occasionally, "That's my grandma's name!"

Worse, the people saying it were usually named Tracy or Kim or Lisa — you know, cool girl names (at least, back in the days before those names, too, lost their ultra-hipness — thanks a lot, Kaitlins).

I've always hoped that someday, somehow the name June would come back into vogue. After I saw the 2005 film "Walk the Line," which contained a scene with audience members chanting, "June, June, June," I researched name trends on the Social Security Administration website, hoping for signs that the film was fueling a comeback of my name. At the site I learned that June was the 39th most popular girls' name in 1925 and has been sliding into doily-like obscurity ever since. Not what I wanted to hear.

So all it took to get me to cough up $12.50 for a "Knight and Day" matinee (yes, my megaplex is mega-priced) was a trailer in which Cruise repeatedly said the name of Diaz's character, June. The film did not disappoint. Cruise said "June" so many times that Diaz's June Havens said, "Stop saying my name. It's freaking me out." And for once, the name June was more about great abs than great aunts.

Then, that same day, Junes took another step into the spotlight when I got an e-mail from a former copy-editing student of mine named June. The class I taught was online, so I never met June. Yet somehow she earned a special place in my heart and a hip, youthful image in my mind.

June's pretty good with grammar. She also knows the basics of using "whom." But, like most cool young people, she has trouble using whom in one particular situation: "The man who Mr. and Mrs. Jones hope will represent them — at a time when they most need a good attorney — is known for his expertise in real estate law."

"I have the nagging feeling that the 'who' should be a 'whom,'" June wrote.

Actually, the "who" in the sentence is correct. "Who" is a subject pronoun. It performs the action of a verb. I, you, he, she, it, we and they are also subject pronouns. "Whom" is an object pronoun. It receives the action of a verb or is the object of a preposition, just like the object pronouns me, you, him, her, it and them.

June knew that the attorney was the object of the Joneses' hoping. But she didn't notice that the attorney is also the subject of the action "represent." The rule is that every clause needs a subject. Therefore, when a pronoun is the object of one clause, but the subject of another, the subject form wins.

A simpler example: In "the man whom June loves," which is correct, the pronoun is the object of the action, loving. Compare that to "the man who loves June." Here, the pronoun is actually performing the action.

So "the actress who I believe is best suited to the name June" is the right way for me describe Dakota Fanning or Ellen Page.

JUNE CASAGRANDE is author of "It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences." She can be reached at JuneTCN@aol.com.

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