"One" is the loneliest pronoun

Subject: "One" is the loneliest pronoun
From: Mark Levinson <mark -at- SD -dot- CO -dot- IL>
Date: Mon, 13 Feb 1995 10:48:55 IST

"One" has been used for time out of mind by the English
to mean "me".

** Thus the American expression "taking care of Number One."

Just kidding. The British "one" still supposedly has the meaning
of "any ordinary person." In foptalk, "one" can acquire a
first-person connotation because the speaker makes every effort
not to refer directly to the self. (As that movie about
the River Kwai pointed out, how like the Japanese the
British are...)

Q. Another cup of tea, your Lordship?
A. One does hesitate to impose...

In this example, his Lordship presents a generalization, from
which an answer to the specific situation can be inferred, in
order to avoid focusing grammatically on himself. The more
specific the situation and the less general the generalization,
the sillier the device sounds, and of course the attempt to divert
attention from the ego only draws attention to it.

Oh dear, one's boots have been splashed.

In my opinion, such misuse of "one" should not deter us from
proper use of "one" in generalizations; for example,

At the entrance to a mosque, one removes one's shoes.

(I wouldn't say "you remove," because maybe you don't happen
into mosques. But everybody who does, does.)

True, "one" isn't used much these days, but it has its place
in the language.
||- Mark L. Levinson, mark -at- sd -dot- co -dot- il -- Box 5780, 46157 Herzlia, Israel -||
|| If God intended 1 space between sentences, why do we have 2 thumbs? ||

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