Pronoun Reflection

Pronouns are very important to rhetoric and connotation in the English language. Although many argumentative writers who discuss the meaning of words at length bring up the pronoun “we” vs. “you” or “me”, there is also an interesting discussion behind the words “everybody”, “anybody”, “nobody”, and “somebody.” Although we use each word casually in everyday language, it is important to look at the true meaning behind each pronoun. Although the use of the word may be convenient, it is not always accurate.

Everybody, or everyone, is probably the most inclusive pronoun that can be used in any context. Although we don’t always use “everybody” to it’s true definition, it normally implies an overall inclusiveness whether it actually reflects that complete promise of inclusion. For example, we often say “everybody can do that” in response to activities that we view as generally simple, like balancing on one foot, playing Candyland, or singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. But can everybody actually complete these simple tasks? Everybody (well, almost everybody) knows…the answer is no. Some don’t have feet to balance on at all, some don’t have the cognitive ability to understand simple board games, some cannot verbally communicate any language, let alone communicate through song. Everybody can only really be applied to small populations. For example, in a classroom environment, a teacher could ask “everybody to be involved in the discussion,” with the knowledge that every student in that situation is capable of doing so.

Anybody is similar to everybody in the sense that it can be used in a general and inclusive sense. “anybody and everybody,” or “anyone and everyone,” is a phrase we often use, to include an entire population of people. Anybody also can reference a single person out of a group of people.

Somebody has two definitions. The first describes the literal definition: “some person; someone.” This is used in everyday language to address a person who who exists without a name because their identity is not yet clear. For example: “can somebody take out the trash?” or “somebody left the refrigerator door open.” In both of these contexts, we know that some person completed or will complete a specific task, we just are not yet sure of that person’s identity. This definition also applies to the sarcastic use of the word somebody. For example, “well if somebody would have just taken the the trash out, the kitchen wouldn’t smell like rotting chicken” or “maybe we would have some milk for these cookies, but somebody had to the leave the refrigerator door open.” By putting the emphasis of on the first syllable of the word “some” it is clear that the speaker actually knows who that “somebody” is, but is sarcastically referencing their lack of identity.

The second definition of the somebody is used to imply the value of someone’s existence: “a person of importance or authority.” We tend to refer to someone who may become successful or important in society as a “somebody.” This is a title many people aspire to because being somebody implies that people acknowledge their existence as a being of importance. Everybody wants to be somebody.

Nobody is easily associated with somebody because the two have antimonial prefixes: “no” and “some.” These prefixes automatically provide opposing connotations: nobody reflecting a negative connotation and somebody reflecting a positive connotation. Therefore, the second definition of somebody also applies to nobody, but in an opposite manner. A nobody is someone of zero importance, someone who fails to play an important role in their own existence and the existence of others.

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