-body vs. -one

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 3 20:40:44 UTC 2009

For years, I've racked my intuitions to see whether I could find a
difference between the two in my grammar, but I've never had any real
success at it. Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah, but somebody stole
my gal. What can I tell you?

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

On Sat, Jan 3, 2009 at 12:54 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: -body vs. -one
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 11:41 AM -0600 1/3/09, Murrah Lee wrote:
>>I saw an old Sherlock Holmes movie, "Terror by Night," last night, and
>>one of the characters-- Inspector LaStrade, I think--said that
>>"Somebody (did something)" rather than "Someone (did something)".  I
>>grew up in East Texas in the 1950s, and we always used the -body
>>form.  However, I have lived in Iowa and Michigan as an adult, and
>>there they generally use the -one form.  I assume that Southerners
>>tend to use -body and Northerners -one. I wonder if someone can give
>>insight into the cultural origins of the use of -body (as in somebody)
>>vs. -one (as in someone).  I suspect it reflects that the South was
>>influenced more by southern and southwestern England while New England
>>and the Midwest by eastern England.
> Aren't there a lot of speakers and writers who use both forms freely?
> I'm not saying interchangeably, since I'm sure there are subtle
> differences, possibly in register (-one being more more formal?) but
> I'm hard pressed to say what the difference is for me, and I'm sure I
> use both in relatively free distribution.
> It would be interesting to see if there's any quantitative work on
> this, with regional or other parameters of variation.
> LH
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