Date: Mon, 10 Nov 1997 07:23:08 -0500

From: Jim Crotty Monkmag[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM

Subject: Re: one as a pronoun?

In a message dated 11/9/97 5:13:14 PM, you wrote:

After reading 72 freshmen papers I find myself facing: "One finds many


in common..." in nearly every one. I hate this construction. I especially

hate it when it's reflexive: "when one asks oneself what one's position

is..." Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage tells us it is 'usually

the mark of a formal style,' but I find myself wanting to tell my students

not to use it ever, because it sounds stiff and unnatural. In other words, my

Sprachgefuehl tells me people don't use it in informal speech, and formal

speech that deviates too much from informal speech doesn't set well. My

question is- what's the current feeling on this construction, in writing and

in speech? I know some people use it in conversational styles, but is it

only PhDs? It sounds foreign to me. German, 'man,' French 'on,' but not


I distinctly remember "one" being used by the English in England. I started

using it after I returned from my Junior Year Abroad at the University of

Sussex. So maybe we should make it a condition upon reentry that one cannot

use "one" if "one" expects to be received as a normal, freethinking,

relentlessly informal American. All those who fail the "one" test at customs

will be remanded to the San Fernando Valley for reindoctrination.

Jim Crotty

How To Talk American