Yesterday, I handed my assignment to the professor as I was reaching the deadline. For some reason it took a while for her to check my paper, which made me uneasy, but eventually she looked at me in awe, mouth agape, and said:

Wow! You really surprised me! Now I think I don't know you at all. Who are you? Seriously!

Startled by her question, I blurted out:

Just an ordinary person?!

She nodded in disbelief and said:

No, you're more than one ordinary person!

Now I wonder what she really meant by that. Did she mean I'm better than an ordinary person, or she was teasing me as if I'm pregnant? After all, she could use "an" instead of "one"?

  • Is your professor a native speaker? It seems very unlikely a thoughtful Anglophone would deliberately use such unusual phrasing to a non-native speaker. When we use "non-standard" wording like this, it's normally a "flag" alerting the other person to the fact that there's some unusual nuance implied. A bit nonsensical in this case anyway - obviously "pregnancy" isn't the intended nuance, but why on earth would the teacher want to say you're more than one ordinary person, rather than just one extraordinary person? Personally, I've absolutely no idea! – FumbleFingers Sep 16 '13 at 16:19
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    Based your avatar, you seem unimpregnable. – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Sep 16 '13 at 16:47
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    @ Nate: In my experience, people who are multilingual are often more prone to erroneously mix up idiomatic usages - and as user49891 comments below his answer, even native speakers sometimes do this too. I wouldn't say your example is exactly a hanging offence, but it is a conflation of two different ways of expressing emphasis (more than, and stressed one). – FumbleFingers Sep 16 '13 at 17:59
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    Oh, well, the reason I inquired about the nature of the assignment is that, if the professor indeed said, "You're more than one .. person" it may have been conveying a subtle suspicion about plagiarism. Just one theory among many grasps at the straws. Hard to say for sure without knowing the nature of the assignment, though. – J.R. Sep 16 '13 at 20:03
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    Did you inadvertently pluralize your name on the paper? – user867 Sep 17 '13 at 4:36

It's very unusual to be sure, but it's also spoken word, which can sometimes be a very loose-cut form of english. Her use of "one" is probably just a coincidence of choice, and she probably does mean "you are more than just 'one ordinary person'". Your professor is not teasing you, just using a slightly odd construct of language.

  • @Matt Эллен Oh dear, how embarrassing...fixed. – Zibbobz Sep 16 '13 at 15:58
  • Yes - compare Ron Weasley's "... that's one big woman!" And blend in his "That's not just a dragon!" – Edwin Ashworth Sep 16 '13 at 17:29

I get the feeling she sees a different personality in your writing. Some people have a genuine voice when they write that differs from their outward persona. Maybe she underestimated your depth of thought, or your ability to use language in unusual ways. Some people write exactly like they talk. (That is to say, one dimensional.) It sounds like you have more than one dimension when you write. That is excellent. If that is the case, I think your grade will reflect her opinion. I don't think it has anything to do with pregnancy.

  • Thank you for your kind words and your helpful answer. :) – Nate Sep 16 '13 at 18:16

One is used for emphasis. The same as when someone says You're one rad dude or That's one mean [amazing] peach pie.

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    In the "assertive singular" context this is true, but idiomatically I've never come across anything along the lines of Mmmm! This is more than one tasty burger!. People certainly do use "This is one tasty burger!" for emphasis, as that link shows. So I was a bit surprised on checking Samuel L Jackson's line in Pulp Fiction - I'd have bet money he said one, but actually he says a, with all the emphatic stress on tasty burger. – FumbleFingers Sep 16 '13 at 16:30
  • Good point for clarification re * more than* if we're talking quantitative, but I think the more than from the teacher was about being more than ordinary, not more than one. – user49891 Sep 16 '13 at 16:55
  • Also, when we speak, even if we're native speakers, sometimes what comes out is a combination of two possible sentences. It would have been best if the teacher had said either You're more than ordinary or You're one extraordinary person but my suspicion is that her brain jumbled the two. (I think we'd all cringe if someone followed us around for a day and transcribed our conversations). – user49891 Sep 16 '13 at 17:01
  • @FumbleFingers, I'll look out for that next time I happen to see Pulp Fiction. :-) – user49891 Sep 16 '13 at 17:12
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    @FumbleFingers -- what does Marcellus Wallace look like? – Malvolio Sep 16 '13 at 18:52

I would understand that she is implying you did such a good job that it looks there was a whole team of people working on your assignment,hence you are more than one ordinary person.


Could she be pulling your leg on the use of "we" to present a personal opinion?

Wow! You really surprised me! Now I think I don't know you at all. Who are you? Seriously!

No, you're more than one ordinary person!

That you must be either:

  • 'one extraordinary person', i.e. royalty (if you're using the "royal we"), or
  • more than one ordinary person to be using a plural pronoun for your own point of view.

It would explain the "I don't know you at all" (didn't know your were a king, Nate!) and the odd choice of "one ordinary person" rather than "an ordinary person".

Obviously depends on the tone of voice, the actual exchange and the sense of humour of your teacger, but just another angle that I thought of when reading her comments.

(Generally the use of "we" would be encouraged in an academic setting, though depends on your writing, & on your professor!)


The meaning of the professor's comment was, "the author of this paper is not the person who I thought you were."

The professor was clearly surprised by the quality of the paper compared her "image" of you. Usually, in this context, it's a "positive" surprise and you'll get a good grade.

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