Thursday, September 27, 2012
Fourth and Fifth Person
This is another past post of mine (several years ago) that will help illuminate my mother, bless her heart, to those of you who have only been reading my Blog for a year or so.
My mother had this annoying habit of speaking in fourth person. When she wanted to give her opinion and add some credibility, she would 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. 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" were the figments of my mother's imagination who were 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 8 inches of her) had walked in and said, "Now, James, Sue, Anne, Carolyn, and Joyce all say that Sara and Tom are having an affair," I would definitely had taken her seriously, after recovering from the shock that she had revealed her "referents". But, I wasn't concerned about going into the shock, because that was not going to happen. My concern was always that she would 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 . . ."
Oh, dear God.