The New York Times, bastion of all the news that’s fit to print, and then some, opened a recent story with the sentence “Whatever happened to Ron Paul?” Somewhere on the staff of that august publication there must be editors who know better.
In that sentence, as in the classic movie What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, what and ever should be two words. What is an interrogative pronoun, requesting information about “the identity, nature, or value of an object or condition,” and ever is an adverbial modifier meaning “over a period of time.”
The same paper in another story indicated that Mitt Romney will do “whatever it takes” to win the Republican nomination. Maybe so, but at least this time they got whatever right. In this case it is properly one word, a pronoun meaning “anything,” “everything,” “no matter what,” or “other similar things.” For example: Whatever I say, you tell me to “shut up” or I enjoy Chardonnay, bock beer, single-malt whiskey, or whatever.
The one-word whatever can also be an adjective, meaning “of any kind” or an adverb meaning “in any case.” For example: I’ll take whatever money you have or There is no point whatever in your resisting because I have a gun.
Contemporary usage of the one-word whatever, following a question and usually accompanied by a rolling of the eyes and/or a shrug of the shoulders, is adverbial in this sense, with an added connotation of “why are you bothering me with this?”
What ever became of the Bard of Buffalo Bayou? Whatever.
Mitt Romney on the Campaign Trail
I’m not concerned about the poor,
They have a safety net.
Ten thousand dollars says that you’re
Not going to take my bet.
I really like it when I’m able
To fire the people who
Repair my cars, install my cable,
Or give me a shampoo.
You’re out of work? Now, listen—shucks,
I, too, am unemployed.
Of course, two hundred million bucks
Does help to fill the void.
My income taxes cause me pains—
Almost fifteen percent!
I try to save my capital gains
(But some of them I spent).
I do get speakers’ fees and such
At places I appear,
But they don’t amount to much—
Just half–a-mill last year.
Corporations? They are people,
Just like me and you.
Just wait—that Democratic Veep’ll
Claim that isn’t true.
My love of sports goes to extremes,
I love to cheer and yell,
I follow almost all the teams
And know their owners well.
How often do I wish again,
That I could catch a flight
To see those trees in Michigan—
They’re just the perfect height.
Home ownership? We need much more
To make our nation thrive,
Why, I myself own three or four—
Or possibly it’s five.
I really do abhor it,
With just one tiny reservation:
In my state I was for it.
For the price of gas we owe great thanks
To Democrats who tax:
It makes it hard to fill the tanks
Of all my Cadillacs.
On my lawn crew, I told their foreman,
Hire no illegal alien.
After all, I am a Mormon—
And not Episcopalian.
They say I’m like an Etch-a-Sketch,
But, heck, that’s just plain nutty,
When there’s a fact I have to stretch,
I’m more like Silly Putty.
As for that dog, atop my car
To Canada—I swear,
It really wasn’t all that far,
And the dog just loves fresh air.
You won’t find more, if you should delve
Much deeper into Romney.
Just vote for me in 2012,
And I mean Anno Domini.