Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

One goose, many geese. One moose, many meese? One mouse, many mice. One house, many hice? English doesn’t make much sense sometimes. You think you’ve got a grasp on a system or a pattern, only to be thrown for a loop with one of the many exceptions. A good example of this is when you look at some compound words. We’ve got everybody, everyone, somebody, someone, anybody and anyone. Given this, you’d think that “noone” would be perfectly correct. But it’s “no one” instead. Why?

At first, we might assume that it has to do with the “no” part of the word. This represents the absence of the person, as opposed to how everybody, somebody and someone all refer to the presence of a person. Maybe it’s this sense of negation that requires the separation of the words “no one.”

But if that were the case, why do we refer to “nobody” and not to “no body” instead? Digging further into the problem, we find the confusion only gets worse and worse. Realistically, this probably has a lot more to do with clarity than with an actual systematic reason.

When you write the word as “noone,” it’s possible that someone might misread that (or mispronounce that) as one syllable, perhaps similar to the word “noon.” By separating the term into two words — no one — the meaning becomes clearer.

It’s similar to the difference between “resigned” (left a position voluntarily, “re-zind“) and re-signed (signed again, “re-sind“). We also see this with childcare and child-care, though that appears to be more of a stylistic choice or a matter of regional convention.

Arya Stark

And if you were wondering about the title for today’s blog post, then you probably have not been watching this season of Game of Thrones.

In order to join a mysterious organization (religion? cult? secret society?) of mystic assassins, a once noble young girl must renounce her name and her previous identity. She must pledge herself as “no one” to the Many-Faced God as a member of the Faceless Men. The girl is no one.