Just say "these"
Language Log reader Tim Leonard wrote me a little while ago about his
wife's use of these ones
I passed the query on to the American Dialect Society mailing list on
9/29/07, hoping that someone there would know of literature on the
usage, especially its regional and social distribution and its
history. Nothing has turned up, and I haven't been able to find
discussion of the variant in CGEL
-- or, remarkably, in a pile of usage guides I examined. But
having started thinking about the variant, I was moved to write a bit
about the syntax of such expressions.
Leonard's original message:
My wife consistently uses "these ones"
where I use "these", and to my ear it isn't quite grammatical. I
figured it was a regional variation that was likely (since I probably
represent a whole class of people who find her usage jarring) to have
become some commentator's bugaboo, and that I might learn something
from the usage guides. But Merriam-Webster's English Usage is
silent on "these ones", as is American Heritage Book of English Usage,
The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, and Strunk and
White. Google to the rescue, with the web version of Paul
Brians's Common Errors in English, but the entry
on the web
simply disapproves, with no reasoning or citations or
commentary, so I've learned very little.
Is this variation familiar to you, or covered in any of your usage
guides? Or can you suggest how else I might learn about it?
And what Brians says:
By itself, there's nothing wrong with
the word "ones" as a plural: "surrounded by her loved ones." However,
"this one" should not be pluralized to "these ones." Just say "these."
is indeed familiar
to me (for many years now); people have reported it to me (with
disfavor) many times. But i don't
find it in any of the first 20 usage guides I consulted (thanks again
to Rachel Cristy for her help in these searches), despite the fact that
it's an obvious candidate for an Omit Needless Words treatment -- that
is, for a "secondary"
to ONW as backing for disapproval of a non-standard
usage. (I am as often surprised by the things that mostly escape
the attention of usage advisers as I am by the things they pile up on.)
As for its regional and social distribution, the variant might have a
distribution along the usual lines, but it's also possible that it's
merely an occasional non-standard variant that turns up via analogy (to
) every so often and
then spreads from person to person without becoming strongly associated
with any social identity, or spreads in this fashion while becoming
associated with many different social identities.
On to the syntax. First, i'll assume that those
works like these
); this could turn out to be
wrong, of course. (Note that Brians mentions only these
. In fact, usage
advisers often mention one instance of a phenomenon while neglecting
other parallel instances.)
Next, I'll label the variants 0 (without one
)) and 1 (with one
)), and I'll distinguish two
different uses of the variants -- a
"deictic" (D) use, in which the expressions are accompanied by some
sort of indicating gesture, perhaps just gaze, and an "anaphoric" (A)
use, in which the expressions refer to some entity or entities
established in the preceding discourse. (Undoubtedly, there's
more complexity here, but this is enough to expose some big things that
are going on.)
I predicted that Leonard's wife doesn't use these ones EVERYWHERE
he uses these
; rather, he
uses these ones
, but she has
and these ones
. The non-standard
variant is, I believe, available only for D uses, not for A uses.
(These predictions have now been confirmed.)
Here's the A pattern, including the Apl case, in which I think
everybody (including Leonard's wife) has the 0 variant and NOT
the 1 variant:
I didn't buy it, because it was ugly. [response]
This/That is a strong objection.
I didn't buy it, because it was ugly. [response] *This/*That one
is a strong objection.
I didn't buy it, because it was ugly and cost too much.
[response] These/Those are strong objections.
I didn't buy it, because it was ugly and cost too
much. [response] *These/*Those ones are strong objections.
Now for the deictic uses. Assume that the speaker is looking at a
tray of objects and has been asked to choose one, or some.
I'll take this/that.
I'll take this/that one. [both 0 and 1 are possible,
they're not truly equivalent.]
I'll take these/those. [standard variant]
I'll take these/those ones. [non-standard variant]
(It's entirely possible, even likely, that some speakers with the 1
variant in Dpl also use the 0 variant on some occasions. Even
Leonard's wife might do this; he's only going to notice her productions
when they differ from his own. I don't know if anyone has looked
at within-speaker variation on this point.)
Now to widen the focus a bit: the distribution of 0 and 1 variants
differs from construction to construction. Possessives pattern, I
think, like D this
: standard 0 (mine
/ etc.), but non-standard 1 (my one
) / your one
) / etc.); I don't know whether the
constructions co-vary within individuals. To complicate things
further, I think that full-NP possessives are more acceptable in the
1 variant (the professor's one
)) than possessive pronouns are.
Other constructions are like Dsg this
in allowing both the 0 and the
1 variant (as above, I'm not claiming that these variants are truly
equivalent, only that both are acceptable):
EACH: Each (one) is
ANY: Any (one) of them will do.
Adj: You take the red pencil and 'll take the blue (one). You
take the red pencils and I'll take the blue (ones).
(As far as i know, no one has objected to the 1 variants here, or to
, on "primary" ONW
grounds. True, you could save a word, but both variants are
standard, so ONW doesn't come up.)
Finally, there are determiners for which only the 0 variant is possible
(parallel to A this
and A these
), and others for
which only the 1 variant is:
0-only ALL: All are
flawed. *All ones are flawed.
1-only EVERY: *Every is flawed. Every one is
And that's what I know about this topic at the moment.
Posted by Arnold Zwicky at October 4, 2007 12:11 PM