Re: "One" is the loneliest pronoun

Subject: Re: "One" is the loneliest pronoun
From: marsha durham <m -dot- durham -at- UWS -dot- EDU -dot- AU>
Date: Tue, 14 Feb 1995 16:05:47 +1100

I agree Sandra. My students will turn in the most convoluted text rather
than use 'one', but they also do not seem comfortable with the more
informal 'I'. The sense of egalitarianism shows up in other ways as well.
In a cross-cultural study of Japanese and Australian university students,
I found that the Japanese expected to show that they were a 'good'
student by obeying their teacher. The Australian students reacted quite
negatively to this suggestion, saying that the concept of obedience (at
least giving overt indications of it) showed 'servility'.

> 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
> Surely it's a class marker, used naturally by some of "the English" and in
> by others.

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