"One" is the loneliest pronoun

Subject: "One" is the loneliest pronoun
From: SANDRA CHARKER <scharker -at- OZEMAIL -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Mon, 13 Feb 1995 23:20:24 +1100

Diana Patterson wrote:

> "One" has been used for time out of mind by the English to mean
> "me". And there is often a suggestion of personal revelation
> in the use of "one". That personal is what keeps people from
> feeling comfortable with it.

I don't think that's why Oztralians aren't comfortable with One. I think it
sounds to us like what Mark Levinson called "foptalk" (love it!!), and it
offends our egalitarian national self-image. Which suggests there might be
national differences in reasons for avoiding what ought to be a useful pronoun
-- curiouser and curiouser.

Still, the sentence:

"One's writing improves with time..."

doesn't sound to me like a personal revelation; it sounds like a neutral
generalisation, particularly considering that it was said by a teacher of
writing talking about course content. So, how does it sound to other people?

And would a sentence like this sound ok in a software manual:

"One uses online Help less with experience.."


It wouldn't here -- one's audience would collapse in helpless mockery. I can't
seriously imagine it appearing in any manual from the US, Canada, the UK*, or
New Zealand that I've ever encountered? But why not?

Sandra Charker (too hot to sleep in summertime Australia)


* Incidentally, is it true that "the English" have used "one" time out of mind?
Surely it's a class marker, used naturally by some of "the English" and in jest
by others.


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