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Is there a preferred time to use "nobody" versus "no one?"
November 22, 2004 8:58 AM   Subscribe

[Grammar] Is there a preferred time to use "nobody" versus "no one?"
posted by davebug to Writing & Language (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
In general, nobody is informal and no one is formal.
posted by naomi at 9:08 AM on November 22, 2004


Thank you for not typing "noone." I 'loose' my mind when I see that.
posted by Tacodog at 9:28 AM on November 22, 2004 [1 favorite]


Nobody loves me.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:57 AM on November 22, 2004


Isn't it also that "nobody" is more often referring to a group? And "no one" an individual?

Nobody knew where she had been.

No one answered when he asked where she was.
posted by amberglow at 10:14 AM on November 22, 2004


dictionary.com says no one means nobody. I think they're interchangeable.
posted by shepd at 10:25 AM on November 22, 2004


Is there a preferred time

When you need 3 syllables for a song/poem?
posted by scarabic at 10:30 AM on November 22, 2004


Chorus:
I ain't got nobody, nobody, cares for me,
Nobody, nobody, cares for me.
I'm so sad and lonely, sad and lonely, sad and lonely
Won't some sweet mama come and take a chance with me?
Cause I ain't so bad.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:40 AM on November 22, 2004


To clarify, nobody and no one do have the same meaning. But you will typically find that "no one" is considered to be more correct in formal writing, while "nobody" is used more often in conversation and song lyrics.

An unstated corollary is that the word "ain't" must be used in conjunction with "nobody" whenever possible. Use of "ain't" with "no one" is still a hanging offense in most southern states.
posted by naomi at 11:03 AM on November 22, 2004


dictionary.com says no one means nobody. I think they're interchangeable.

My AP Stylebook seems to say the same thing!
posted by handful of rain at 11:15 AM on November 22, 2004


Stylebooks do not include the unwritten rules of grammar. Maybe "rules" is the wrong word -- widespread assumptions? Anyway, here's an interesting linguistic analysis.
posted by naomi at 11:50 AM on November 22, 2004


I had a friend's mother once tell me that nobody used "nobody" until the 60s, when the idea of a floating consciousness separate from one's body was breaking down. She somehow tied this into the Vietnam War. But as may already be evident, she was a bit of a hippie freak, so...

I do think, however, that an older generation would see "nobody" as extremely informal, while today's 20-somethings (myself included) would see not much difference between "nobody" and "no one."
posted by occhiblu at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2004


I had a friend's mother once tell me that nobody used "nobody" until the 60s,...

hmmm...I would have preferred "no one used "nobody" until..." in that sentence. : >
posted by amberglow at 5:28 PM on November 22, 2004


I think it's a bit older than the 1960s - the OED has quotes from 1400 on, and notes that "nobody" was "Freq. written as two words from the 14th to the 18th centuries, and with hyphen in the 17th and 18th".

Quotes for "no one" date from 1538 forward.

Interestingly enough, "nobody" has several definitions in the OED (such as saying "I am a nobody"), noting different ways it is used, while "no one" only has one definition. This would suggest to me that "nobody" has always been more frequently used in idiom.
posted by jb at 8:56 PM on November 22, 2004


"Anybody. In the sense of 'any person,' not to be written as two words. Any body means 'any corpse,' or 'any human form,' or 'any group.' The rule holds equally for everybody, nobody, and somebody.

Anyone. In the sense of 'anybody' written as one word. Any one means 'any single person' or 'any single thing.'"

From The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White, 4th ed. p. 41.

If the rule follows anybody and anyone, nobody and no one are the same, but no one can presumably also refer to "any single person" or "any single thing."
posted by SoftRain at 11:37 PM on November 22, 2004


Please, not The Elements of Style -- it's an enjoyable book, but it's just E.B. White's personal crotchets, with no standing as a reference work or an authority on the English language. I'd say naomi has it right.
posted by languagehat at 8:16 AM on November 23, 2004 [1 favorite]


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