-body vs. -one

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Sun Jan 4 20:14:59 UTC 2009

On Jan 3, 2009, at 9:41 AM, Murrah Lee wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Murrah Lee <mclee at MURRAH.COM>
> Subject:      -body vs. -one
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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.

i'm sure we've had threads on -body vs. -one several times in the
past, but i suspect they were as inconclusive as this one is turning
out to be: people reporting on what they believe their preferences to
be, people reporting on which variant they believe is used in certain
areas, and so on.  (but now postings from Paul Johnston on Northern
British and Scots English, and from Mark Davies supporting the idea
that "someone" is more formal.)

here's MWDEU on "somebody, someone":

Copperud 1980 has a curious note to the effect that it is a
superstition that _someone_ is preferable to _somebody_, and a similar
notion is mentioned in Shaw 1987.  _Somebody_ and _someone_ are of the
same age, according to the OED, and when the OED came out, _somebody_
was much better attested.  In the 20th century, however, _someone_ has
come on strong, and we seem to have slightly more evidence now for
_someone_ than for _somebody_.  But both, of course, are equally
standard; use whichever one you think sounds better in a given context.

Garner's MAU says much the same thing:

The words are equally good; euphony should govern the choice. Someone
is often better by that standard.

(then, of course, there are the other -body and -one  words.)


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