Date: Tue, 11 Nov 1997 07:32:52 -0500 From: Robert Ness Subject: Re: one as a pronoun? "One" as indefinite is not foreign, or at least not recent. It's been around since late ME (see Chaucer's The Miller's Tale:" The carpenter out of his slumber sterte/ And herde oon crien 'water!' as he were wood" [1A.3816-7]). "One replaced the OE indefinite "man" (still used in german), as in "man stearf" (someone died). The French indefinite probably had something to do with this change. One need not like it though. On Mon, 10 Nov 1997, Norman Roberts 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 > >English. > > > >Dale Coye > >The College of New Jersey > > "One" is probably on the borderline between formal and frozen [Remember the > five clocks?], but it's all we have for third person singular humans unless > you are into using "they" or "you." I believe the NCTE guidelines for > nonsexist language recommend using the plural. Actually there's nothing > wrong with "one" as long as it's not overused. Beginning writers, however, > tend to overuse it as they learn how to use it. But hey, if you're in the > business of reading student papers, you have to get used to a lot of stuff > you don't like. It is the teacher's lot to be pleased only rarely. >