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I occasionally hear someone use the phrase "my one friend" to mean "one of my friends". To me it sounds like they only have one.

Where is this form used most?

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2 Answers 2

Actually, when someone says "my one friend" its meaning is contextual. Consider the following:

"I'm 101 years old and my one friend just died."

In this case, it's likely the speaker truly means he had but a single friend left. For clarification, he might have said "my one remaining friend," but the listener would understand that he is now bereft of friends.

On the other hand, the nominal phrase "my one friend" introduces the notion that the speaker desires to emphasize specificity in some special context. It's similar in construction to "this one guy even asked me if I would give him some money after I asked to borrow five bucks" or "this one moron held the rabbit by its ears" or "this one lucky bastard hit his flush on the river and sucked out on me": it intensifies the focus on a particular subject, and alerts the listener that what follows is of special note.

As to your actual question, I don't think there is a regional flavor to this locution. I have heard it all over the U.S., but it's always an informal usage and I want to say it has a working-class feel to it, but that's probably not accurate to several decimal places. I think you are more likely to hear it said by a person who also says "she goes" to mean "she said," as in "I asked my one friend to stop texting my boyfriend a gazillion times a day, and she goes, 'Yeah, right, bitch. I'll text whoever the hell I want.'"

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+1 for the parallel between "my one [x]" and "this one [x]". And I agree, stylistically this goes with using "goes" to mean "said". –  Marthaª Nov 23 '10 at 14:32
    
There is probably some regional flavour to it as I don't recall having heard it used much in the UK. –  glenatron Nov 23 '10 at 16:33
    
I'm pretty sure I've rarely if ever heard this construction in the UK. I first recall hearing it when I moved to the states, and finding it quite un-idiomatic at first. I feel like I've heard it mainly in people from the Northeast, and especially from Jersey, but I don't know how accurate that is. –  PLL Dec 27 '10 at 14:28
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Very much conversational and typically at the start of a story:

My one friend had this cat named Hubcap and one day...

So also the kind of thing you might hear in a stand-up comedy routine. I would suggest it is perhaps more likely to turn up in certain dialects or modes of speaking, but I'm not sure which ones or where it originates. In most places you would be more likely to hear "one of my friends" or "my friend" instead.

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And so I am left wondering what happened to Hubcap... –  RegDwigнt Nov 23 '10 at 12:46
    
So anyway, Hubcap walked into a Bar.... –  mickeyf Nov 23 '10 at 14:48
    
As I recall he ran off shortly after they moved to Broolyn and vanished. They gave up on being able to find him after doing all the usual stuff for a couple of months and got a kitten. Then he turned up one day. After that they had two cats. –  glenatron Nov 23 '10 at 16:31
    
I bet the story was more interesting when you imagined it.... –  glenatron Nov 23 '10 at 16:31
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