Today I found out that the word ‘whence’ is pretty much always used wrong, especially by modern day writers.
For example, (from the Lord of the Rings, spoken by Elrond): “The Ring was made in the fires of Mount Doom; only there can it be unmade. It must be taken deep into Mordor and cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came.”
So why is this wrong? ‘Whence’ actually means “from where” or “from what place”; so what was said above was, “It must be taken deep into Mordor and cast back into the fiery chasm from from where it came.” ‘Whence’ implies a “from” already; so preceding it with ‘from’, which is commonly done, is redundant. This is the principal advantage of using a word like “whence” instead of just saying “from where”; it implies the “from” already.
This is very similar to “hence” which, if used to refer to time or location, has an implied “from”: “from this place” or “from this time”. For example: “I shall go hence.”; meaning “I shall go from here”.
It isn’t just now-a-days that this has been commonly misused either. Grammar Nazis have been long enraged about the “from whence” faux pas since as early as the thirteenth century.
Whence did this first start popping up? There are numerous examples of the “from whence” incorrect usage in works by Shakespeare, Defoe, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and even several in the King James Bible.
So just remember:
‘from whence’ = ‘from from where’ = bad
‘whence’ = ‘from where’ = good
*Grammar Nazi’s of the World Unite!*
(edit: Grammar Nazis: you guys are awesome at editing my articles for me, finding my typos and what not, but for the love of God read the comments before trying to be the 342,212th Grammar Nazi to post a comment on the above “Nazi’s” apostrophe usage. I should have thought the irony of it would have been obvious; barring that, the 342,211 comments below on that apostrophe should have clued you in, but here we are.)
Expand for References: