Date: Mon, 10 Nov 1997 08:09:07 -0500


Subject: Re: one as a pronoun?

I mislike it too. But "one" and "they" as indefinites are old enough, at

least late ME:

"The carpenter out of his slumber sterte,/And herde oon crien "water!' as

he were wood" (the Miller's Tale, I (A) 3116-7). Old English regularly

used "man" as an indefinite, as in "man stearf" (Someone died). On Sun, 9

Nov 1997, Alan Baragona wrote:

(Dale F. Coye) wrote:

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

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


Dale Coye

The College of New Jersey

Like you, I don't like it and don't use it. It would be one good way

for students to avoid either sexist pronoun usage or the clumsy "he or

she" except that they always end up shifting from indeterminate

pseudo-pronoun "one" to the masculine anyway ("When one reads J.D.

Salinger, he is overcome by sadness."), and it makes them sound as if

they're trying to be British.

Alan B.