Too many Killians, or the weirdest relative pronouns on Twitter

In which a relative pronoun about which I know nothing turns out to show up even in the most illiterate tweets imaginable.

Yesterday we met the various forms of the relative pronoun lequel:

Masculine Feminine
Singular lequel laquelle
Plural lesquels lesquelles

 We saw how when it’s the object of the preposition à, we get various derived forms:

Masculine Feminine
Singular auquel à laquelle
Plural auxquels auxquelles

There’s a similar set for the situation where it is the object of the preposition de.  Here’s the paradigm:

Masculine Feminine
Singular duquel de laquelle
Plural desquels desquelles

You don’t think anyone ever actually uses these?  Neither did I–Laura Lawless says that these are the hardest pronouns in French for English speakers, and I believe it.  I didn’t think that French people used them much, either.  Then I did a Twitter search.  Holy cow–they’re everywhere!  How did I manage not to run into these before?

Screenshot 2015-12-30 23.44.06
“There are too many Killians in this world–damn, I never know which one we’re talking about.”
Screenshot 2015-12-30 23.46.22
“A passenger on the Air France flight on board which a suspicious object was discovered has been remanded to custody.”
Screenshot 2015-12-30 23.49.49
“Yeah, it’s cool to find a person who you don’t get tired of, but if she gets tired of you, it’s hard.”  (se lasser de: to get tired of, to get bored with)
Screenshot 2015-12-30 23.52.23
“The message of John Lennon: no religion in the name of which you are ready to kill or ready to die.”
Screenshot 2015-12-30 23.54.50
“Everything depends on which ones we’re talking about.”
Screenshot 2015-12-31 00.02.17
“Liberty, equality, education…Themes about which to think.”
Screenshot 2015-12-31 00.09.51
“Grand values in the name of which we are at war against Daesh, if I remember correctly.”
Screenshot 2015-12-31 00.11.40
“Pretending to not recognize the toxic people from whom I have drawn away when I run across them in the street. #Resolution2016″

5 thoughts on “Too many Killians, or the weirdest relative pronouns on Twitter”

  1. …and THAT, my friend, is Zipf’s Law in action! 🙂 Usually you see the effect with nouns and verbs, though–sometimes adjectives–so, yes, you’re right–it’s somewhat surprising.


  2. Duly noted, not that I need ANY more grammar to absorb.

    So, the des/da/du basically means “from which/who ” or “of which/who”?
    Very interesting though, neither of my former French tutors ever mentioned this


  3. I think one of the things that makes these tricky for native English speakers is that there are so many possible translations into English, and conversely, so many things in English that you would translate with one of these. For example, one of the most common uses for them that I saw on Twitter was with the verb “parler,” in which case you would translate it is “about which.”


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