I teach college English, and it is becoming more and more difficult for me to find students not using "that" as the default indicative pronoun when referring to people or groups of people in both speech and writing. The simple example I hammer into their questing noggins every semester is this:
People = Who/whom
Things (anything not human) = That (SPOGG: or which)
The rationale I give is also simple, yet I think quite profound:
Our society and culture depersonalize humanity -- individuals or groups of individuals -- too much as it is. Let us not contribute to that depersonalization any more, as it may ultimately depersonalize us all.
~ Prof. Peter R Jacoby
San Diego Mesa College
|I am adorable.|
A related issue arises with animals. We think any animal with a name is a "who."
So, "My cat Fluffy, who eats rats for breakfast, has surprisingly pleasant breath."
And then this: "The dolphin, which swam alongside the ship, gave the wrong directions to Portugal."