Rosie Right 

Our language and how it works.

We the Persons

A friend has asked me to address the question of when and how to use persons and people. He was taught that when you spoke of people with a number it actually should be persons. People is a collective and persons refers to numbers of individuals.

Webster's Dictionary of English Usage tells us that this distinction began at the end of the 19th century. At that time, using "people for persons went on the 'Don't List' of the New York Herald." This lasted for a time, but the Dictionary of Usage says that "recent handbooks and style books will now allow you to use people as Chaucer did nearly 600 years ago. …" (a thousand people).

For those of us here at Style who are looking for a rule, we, thank goodness, have the AP Style Book that is firm in its dictate: "The word people is preferred to persons in all plural uses. … Persons should be used only when it is in a direct quote or part of a title as in Bureau of Missing Persons.

"People also is a collective noun that takes a plural verb when used to refer to a single race or nation, The American people are united. …"

Talk the Talk

Means migration — the move of highly skilled educated and wealthy Americans to cities where there are many others of the same sort. According to Richard Florida who is quoted in the October Atlantic, this is happening more and more, and the middle and lower economic classes are being squeezed out of the cities that are benefiting from this migration. According to Florida, you can tell if you live in one of the lucky cities if the price of housing is still going up.

Ego ramp

— "a proscenium, catwalk, runway, or stage spur that extends into or over an audience. Source: The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English by Grant Barrett.


— high on methamphetamine or a similar drug. Tweaker A habitual user of methamphetamine or a similar drug. Source: Dictionary Update, Copy Editor Newsletter, November 2005.

Let Rosie hear from you by mail (1707 Summit Ave., Suite 201, Richmond, VA 23230); by e-mail (rozanne.epps@styleweekly.com); or by telephone (358-0825).

  • Click here for more Forum
  • Favorite

    Latest in News and Features


    Subscribe to this thread:

    Add a comment

    Connect with Style Weekly

    Most Popular Stories

    • Palms on the Potomac

      Palms on the Potomac

      Our day trip series heads to charming Colonial Beach, a relaxed small town featuring the second-longest beach in Virginia.
      • Sep 7, 2021
    • Co-working Co-conspirators

      Co-working Co-conspirators

      Richmond’s first Black- and queer-owned co-working space is open for business.
      • Aug 31, 2021
    • Fall Arts Preview

      Fall Arts Preview

      • Aug 31, 2021
    • More »

    Copyright © 2021 Style Weekly
    Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
    All rights reserved
    Powered by Foundation