Ah yes, gentle folks – here comes grammar again – and another one of my pet peeves: who versus that.
I am tired (sick and tired and incredibly irritated) by people who use “that” to refer to a person or people. As a general rule “who” refers to people and “that” refers to objects.
This seems to have been forgotten of late – and deliberately so, I believe. Just as the media (read – corporations) have been promulgating the use of “they” rather than “it” when referring to themselves, they have also gone the opposite route with who and that – working to dehumanize people. And we are buying it, saps that we are.
Here is what one reputable grammar website has to say: “The media often uses that with a person, such as The person that robbed the bank also robbed the store because the media wants to dehumanize the report–they want it to be dry and factual, not human. While commonly used in that way, it’s wrong. A person, even a criminal, is animate.”
Now – there are exceptions. There has been some flexibility in usage through the ages going as far back as Chaucer – who occasionally used “that” to refer to a person. But did he use that to de-humanize? Possibly.
We really have to be careful in our use of language – it informs our thoughts. Please, let’s not think of corporations as people and people as inanimate objects, even thought I ma sure the large multi-nationals would very much like us to think that way. (Wouldn’t they, Mr. Orwell?)
You wouldn’t say, “The house who had two stories and three bedrooms.”
So why would you say, “The person that ate dinner in the kitchen?”