An essay today, and a little linguistics. The other day I mentioned the singular they. This isn’t that, even though we could use a word for that, too. See yesterday’s post for mention of the best solution to that problem that I’ve found so far: rewrite the whole sentence.
What we need is an improvement on the word “we.” When you use “we,” whom are you including? You and the guy you’re talking to, or you and the guy with you? (And then there’s the plural of majesty, when you mean only yourself, but I digress.)
A pidgin language someplace in the western Pacific has a good solution:
youme, which means me and you, the guy I’m talking to.
mefellah, which means me and the guy with me, but not you.
Sometimes, especially when you’re trying to persuade someone skeptical to agree with you, using a version of “we” that indicates whether or not you’re including the person you’re talking to.
And all this reminds me of the old Lone Ranger joke:
The Lone Ranger and Tonto were on a hilltop completely surrounded by antagonistic Indians. The Lone Ranger turns to Tonto and says, “Looks like we’re in a tight spot, doesn’t it?”
Tonto replies, “Who’s ‘we,’ Paleface?”
So there you have it. Should we, um, youme start a movement?
PS—Ran into this today. Not sure what kind of “we” this is. Maybe a “youme” used to mean “you”?