The One "That" Got Away...
I’ll admit that I’ve been listening to the soundtrack of “Hamilton” a lot lately. I find myself randomly blurting out song lyrics out of context, or singing along as I walk to work with headphones on.
But when I get to one line sung by Aaron Burr in the first number, I always – albeit inadvertently – correct it. Without fail, I sing – “I’m the damn fool who shot him.” Mr. Burr, the historical figure who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel – sings, “I’m the damn fool that shot him.”
That that gets me every time.
I know what you’re thinking. Not another writer who goes on about who versus that. But seriously, folks. The two are not interchangeable.
Mr. Burr is a person, not a murder weapon. I can picture him waving his pistol in the air, singing: This – this is the damn gun that shot him! But he did it. He’s the one who shot him.
But enough about “Hamilton,” which is one of the most powerful shows I have ever seen. I could overlook this tiny flaw if transgressions of the “who” and “that” rule did not bombard me on a daily basis.
I see it in headlines: 39 Child Actors That Died Without Any Media Coverage.
I read it in reports: This new guide to volunteering in hospitals, “published by Nesta, who has been working with 10 hospitals across the country.” Inside that report, a volunteer is quoted as saying: “I feel I need to be there, because if I am not, I’m letting someone down that might need me.”
I hear it on the radio, advertising a bank who responds to the needs of its customers. Since when are banks people?
Where have all the editors gone?
I wondered aloud if the radio spot was a mistake, or an attempt by advertisers to humanize the institution, thus attracting more customers?
Don’t overthink it, my friends in advertising tell me. It was a mistake.
So be it. But that doesn’t mean I will not be correcting them in my head. Or out loud, as I sing walking down the street.