You—yes, you—you so-called editors at The New York Times—are you aware you have a serious “what ever/whatever” problem? In a recent arts page story, you announced a new remake of that classic horror movie “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” Tch, tch! How many times must I remind you that what ever, in this sense, is two words? I did just that in a previous blog of April 12 this very year. Please see, without delay:
I must admit, it’s getting tiresome to have to keep correcting you about such a simple and straightforward grammatical matter, over and over again. Okay, Times editors, listen up, once more:
In that movie title you mentioned, 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.”
Now if you should have a sentence in which whatever can be used as one word, it would be something like this one: “Whatever happened to Baby Jane is a matter of indifference to me.” Or “Whatever they do, The Times editors cannot seem to remember the difference between what ever and whatever.”
In these cases, whatever is one word, a pronoun, meaning anything,” “everything,” “no matter what,” or “other similar things.” It can also be an adjective, meaning “of any kind” or an adverb meaning “in any case.” For example: “Whatever grammar book you’re using doesn’t seem to help,” or “My corrections of your solecisms seem to do no good whatever.”
Just in case youTimes editors need some reinforcement, I’ve asked the Bard of Buffalo Bayou to whip up a little sestet as a reminder—and if you get it wrong again, he’s going to write a whole sonnet, something we want to avoid at all costs!
What ever became of the rules of good grammar?
Today’s writers think rules don’t have enough glamour,
So the rules have to be pounded in with a hammer.
Whatever they write in their latest endeavor
Today’s writers think is exceedingly clever,
But as for the grammar, they just shrug, “Whatever.”