one should take the boat to Holland

As I write this, I’m leaning back on a plush couch, in my pajamas, my feet up, my face washed, ready to bed down for the night.  Oh, and I’m on a boat.  Yes, a boat…  I’m on a boat.  I’m in my own private cabin, with reasonably comfy bed and full bathroom.  (By the time I post this, I’ll actually not longer be on that boat, but that’s only because I’m too cheap to pay for the onboard Wifi — it also involves going to a lounge, and I’d rather sit here in my pajamas).

So bear with me here, but I just have to put in a plug Stena Line, the ferry service that offers England-to-Holland transport.  Anyone going to and from these countries should definitely take advantage of this service, especially if you hate flying like I do.  Getting from London to Amsterdam, specifically, is a total breeze.  One ticket includes the ferry ride plus the two train rides on either end.  You basically combine the airport and hotel costs.  The prices are comparable to flights, sometimes cheaper, and it’s even a better choice for the environment (at least, that’s what their website says, and that makes sense to me).  It really feels much more like a cruiseliner than what I think of when I think of a “ferry.”  There’s full entertainment — you can even play WiiSports in the arcade.

Anyway, I’m on this boat because I’m headed to Nijmegen to have a big Thanksgiving dinner with a bunch of American linguist friends (hosts: Laura and Daniel).  There are so many Americans in Oxford, a lot of people have been perplexed as to why I decided to go all the way to Holland for a bit of turkey and stuffing.  But I’m excited for my first trip to Continental Europe since moving to the UK.  Taking short intra-Europe trips is something everyone says one should do if one lives in the UK, so here we go!  The awesomeness of this ferry is just the icing on the cake.

…so, did you notice what I did there in that last paragraph?  Using “one” for the generic third person singular?  This use of “one” is just one of the set of words/usages that used to strike me as overly formal — even overly British — but that I’ve grown accustomed to using over the past two months.  I know it’s not rare for an American to use it, but I personally grew up using “you” as my default (and, in fact, only) generic pronoun.  I never could get used to using “one” without sounding like I was trying to sound fancy.  But of course “one” is so much more effective, since the use of “you” is often following by the awkward moment of disambiguation: “I don’t mean you, of course, just anyone, in general.”  That said, I think I’ll probably drop the use of “one” when I go back to California next week whether I want to or not… there’s a reason, after all, that I avoided it, in the first place.  Maybe using generic 3rd singular “one” is like wearing heavy duty rain boots: it’s useful in Britain, but just doesn’t suit a Californian style.

Anyway, here’s a photo of my cabin on the Stena Line ferry:

Cabin on the Stena Line ferry

P.S. Favorite Engrished sign on board: “Various Serials” being available for continental breakfast.


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4 Responses to one should take the boat to Holland

  1. If you don’t mind my asking, how much does the ferry cost? We were planning on taking the Eurostar in spring, but I’d be interested to compare prices, since I love boats about as much as I love trains.

    Oh, and I grew up in NW England being the *only* person in my school who regularly used the pronoun ‘one’. I got teased horribly for it, but it’s a very useful word.

  2. anna says:

    I took an overnight ferry while island hopping in Greece and it was fantastic. Except we didn’t have a cabin, so we basically slept in the lounge. Still. Super cheap and cruise ship feeling.

    I also support your use of “one” – you’ve probably written about this already, but what’s your take on using “their” instead of he/she. I like the gender neutrality.

  3. Stan says:

    It’s a pity one (as generic 3rd person singular) carries connotations of fanciness or pretension, because English needs a word here and you often doesn’t work, as you pointed out. Like you, I avoided one for ages but then I got used to it; when used informally and infrequently it stands out far less than it does when used habitually or in a self-consciously posh way.

  4. Kristen Cure says:

    The librarian in me can’t help but think about the “Various Serials” provided with breakfast. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if continental breakfast always came with newspapers and magazines?

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