My mother has this annoying habit of speaking in fourth person. When she wants to give her opinion and add some credibility, she will always start with, "Well, you know people say . . ." or "Everyone in town is talking about it." I could never define this habit, I just knew it irritated the heck out of me. Yesterday, I finally found that it is grammatically accepted. Now, I am not defending her, or saying it is correct, but my research says "The Fourth Person is sometimes used for the category of indefinite or generic referents." So, I am assuming the "generic referents" are the figments of my mother's imagination who are readily available to support and validate her opinions.
Now, I had an imaginary friend when I was 3 or 4 named Guggy but never recall relying on him and all his friends as my "indefinite" referents when I was trying to make a point to my parents. (Probably because I never thought about it. His thousands of friends would have readily agreed with me on any issue. That would have given credence to any statement a 4 year old was trying to make. "All of Guggy's friends say it is OK to get to stay up late." Somehow, I don't think that would have swayed Dad.) But I digress.
Now, I can assure you, if my mother (all 4 feet 10 inches of her) walked in and said, "Now, James, Sue, Anne, Carolyn, and Joyce all say that Sara and Tom are having an affair," I would definitely take her seriously, after recovering from the shock that she had revealed her "referents". But, I'm not concerned about going into the shock, because that is not going to happen. My concern is that she will move from fourth to fifth person. That is where the indefinite referents talk among themselves. I can hear it now, "Well, everyone in my neighborhood heard that everyone else in town was saying . . ."