English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have used the pronoun "you" instead of the more appropriate word "one" in the position of the pronoun when referring to a generic group. Then when realizing the slip, I've qualified the statement with "When I said 'you', I meant you in the pejorative, not you specifically".

What is the correct word or phrase to use instead of "pejorative" in the above? I discovered that "pejorative" has a more negative connotation than I intend.

share|improve this question

closed as too localized by RegDwigнt Dec 4 '12 at 11:09

This question is unlikely to help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet. For help making this question more broadly applicable, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Uhm, what? I don't understand what's being asked here at all. Please, expand or reword your question. – RiMMER Oct 4 '11 at 17:29
Are you looking for "plural"? – yoozer8 Oct 4 '11 at 17:29
Are you perhaps thinking of generic 'you'? – Barrie England Oct 4 '11 at 17:39
Are you one of them? – onomatomaniak Oct 4 '11 at 17:44

Edit based on the comment below: You should say "When I said 'you', I meant you in the general sense, not you specifically." Makes sense, since "general" is the opposite of "specific"! You could also use "generic" instead of "general" since you're using the generic "you" described below.

"You" is used as a collective pronoun when directed at a group of people. From Wikipedia:

a collective noun is a word used to define a group of objects, where objects can be people, animals, emotions, inanimate things, concepts, or other things. For example, in the phrase "a pride of lions," pride is a collective noun.

Barrie in the comments mentions "generic 'you'", which is an explicit or implicit use of "you" often used to refer to whomever might be around (or more often, reading) rather than being specifically directed at a group. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generic_you.)

share|improve this answer
My regrets for the rough form of my question. In the past when speaking to an individual, I have used the pronoun 'you' instead of the more appropriate word 'one' in the position of the pronoun when referring to a generic group. Then when realizing the slip, qualifying the statement with the phrase "when I said 'you' I meant you in the pejorative not you specifically". My question is to find out if there is another word more appropriate than 'pejorative' in that context. I've heard others make similar statements using that phrase even though the word 'pejorative' itself has a negative context. – Doug Oct 4 '11 at 21:25
@Doug Updated. I've always used and seen used "I meant 'you' in the general sense". – Matthew Read Oct 4 '11 at 21:29
Thank you. A very simple explanation. I appreciate your response. Now if I can just retrain myself to use that phrase.... – Doug Oct 4 '11 at 21:58

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.