One Never Knows, Do One?
July 30, 2012 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Does one quote one's self, or oneself?

One way. Another.

What say ye, language mavens and nit-pickers of MeFi?
posted by spacewrench to Writing & Language (9 answers total)
posted by limeonaire at 3:46 PM on July 30, 2012

Oneself. It's akin to "myself", "yourself", "herself", etc.

One's self is used if you're talking about Buddhism or philosophy, where The Self is a thing.

I was going to provide examples, but I'm having a hard time coming up with one for the latter that doesn't sound completely awkward.
posted by Sara C. at 3:47 PM on July 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

The Grammarist, backing up Sara C.'s take.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:18 PM on July 30, 2012

I would write "oneself" in any context where I'd write "yourself" or "myself." For instance, I disagree with this New York Times example from the Grammarist link:
But in examining the universal need to define one’s self through narrative, it also explores the darker side of storytelling.
You wouldn't say "the universal need to define your self" (two words); you'd say "the universal need to define yourself" (one word). If the space is unnecessary with "your," it should be equally unnecessary with "one." The fact that there happens to be an apostrophe in "one's" (as opposed to my, your, his, her, our, etc.) is irrelevant.

As Sara C. said, you could write "one's Self" if you meant to refer to "The Self" as a philosophical concept. In that context, you could also write "my Self." (I'm capitalizing it for clarity, though it could also be lowercase.) But again, if it's a context where you wouldn't write "my self" as two words, don't write "one's self" as two words.
posted by John Cohen at 5:04 PM on July 30, 2012

Biz editor here. Oneself, w/o question.
BUT I'm often tempted, in my own nonbiz writing, to say one's self, or my own self, etc. Grammarians have strong opinions, but they can never quite explain why these are 'wrong.'
posted by LonnieK at 6:12 PM on July 30, 2012

And it's got nothing to do with Buddhism or philosophy. Just language.
posted by LonnieK at 6:13 PM on July 30, 2012

I typed it one way, then changed it to the other, and couldn't figure out which was right.

I can't dispute what the convention is, but I usually try to figure out something consistent. "Oneself" is not consistent with "myself", or "yourself". "One" is not possessive. The possessive of "one" is "one's". So it would be "one'sself", which I did know wasn't an accepted word. At this point in my over-thinking, "oneself" didn't even look like a proper English word, so I kept the possessive indicator and just split it in two.

Thanks for the correction, but I do think English got it wrong. That's what comes from being raised in judaism, with its concept of tikkun olam, which subtly suggests that god may have not gotten everything right on the first pass.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:18 PM on July 30, 2012

I agree. For example:

"When I quote myself..."

"When you quote yourself..."

"When one quotes oneself..."

It's a reflexive pronoun. Used when the subject is also the object. It's different from possessiveness.

If you *were* talking about the philosophical self, then it would be a separate word and follow the possessiveness rules:

"When I have an insight about the character of my self, ..."

"When you have an insight about the character of your self, ..."

"When one has an insight about the character of one's self, ..."
posted by gjc at 6:47 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

It also depends a little,

y long eared immortal humanoid AD&D character, who sometimes comes up with witty sayings ... well ... when I quote him I might say one was quoting one's elf.
posted by jannw at 9:32 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

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