Can you use “which” to signify an afterthought?
I’m reading a certain novel right now. It’s good, but it uses the word “which” in a way that really bugs me. This spelling and grammar pet peeve has been a fairly recent, but intense, one of mine for the past couple of years.
Dear editor of said novel: The word “which” is not a synonym for “and,” “anyway” or even a period. Here is an example from the book:
“And if you tell him you saw me smoking, I will banish you to the lowest circle of hell. Which I’ve never been there, but . . .”
Now I’m not going to get all academic on you here (I couldn’t even if I wanted to, anyway), but “which” is a pronoun. That means it refers directly to something that’s been mentioned in a conversation, or refers to the people having the conversation.
The character in the example I used should say either, “. . . the lowest circle of hell, which I’ve never been to, but . . .” or drop it altogether. If he says which in the way I just suggested, he’s referring directly to the lowest circle of hell. In the way that appears the book, he’s using it to refer to, “I’ve never been there,” which makes no sense at all. He means to use which to indicate an afterthought, in which case an, “Of course,” at the beginning of the thought would suffice. Actually, in this example, dropping it altogether would make the most sense.
I know the example I used is from a character speaking, but that doesn’t stop it from hitting my brain all wrong. Using which to signify an afterthought or make a new point isn’t a regionalism as far as I know, so it doesn’t get a pass from me. No sir!
Originally published at skgarner.com on August 9, 2009.