Inside looking out: Party with pronouns
One of the funniest routines from the comedy duo of Abbott and Costello was “Who’s on first, What’s on second and I don’t know is on third.” Lou Costello tried to find out the names of these baseball players and never realized their names actually were Who, What, and I Don’t Know. His frustration intensified as he and Bud Abbott volleyed back, and forth and the comedy skit became an all-time classic.
Here’s a bit of it.
Abbott: Who’s on first, What’s on second and I don’t know is on third.
Costello: Who’s on third?
Abbott: I don’t know. Who’s on first.
Costello: Then who’s on third?
Abbott: No. Who’s on first. I don’t know is on third.
Costello: What’s the name of the guy on third?
Abbott: I don’t know. What’s on second.
In the English language, pronouns are supposed to take the place of nouns. “Sam hit the ball and then he ran to first base. A problem occurs when the pronoun is used without a person, place or thing to refer back to in the sentence. One of my favorite examples is, ”You know what they say.” Who are “they”? They say it’s going to be a hot month of August. They say that the U.S. might go to war with Iran. They say tourism in Jim Thorpe is up by 15%.
So let’s have some fun with indefinite pronouns. Here’s my version of the Abbott and Costello routine with the event being a house party.
This is a conversation with Andy and Sam about four people: Joe Nobody, Bob Somebody, Rita Anybody, and Suzie Everybody.
Andy: So who came to your party?
Sam: Nobody came and then Somebody showed up later.
Andy: So who came later?
Sam: I told you. Somebody came around 5 o’clock. Then Everybody came and then left about 9 o’clock.
Andy: You must have had a big crowd if everybody came.
Sam: Not really. Nobody left when Everybody was there.
Andy: That’s what I mean. Everybody was still there.
Sam: Like I said, Nobody left when Everybody was still there.
Andy: Wait a minute. Nobody left if everybody was still there? So who was still there?”
Andy: Who was that?
Sam: Somebody was still there.
Sam: I told you — Somebody was there after Everybody left, and then Nobody came back at 10 o’clock.
Andy: So the party was over at 10?
Sam: No. Somebody stayed until midnight. Soon after that, Nobody went home.
Andy: So let me get this straight. Everybody went home, but somebody stayed?”
Andy: Did anybody come after everybody left?
Sam: Yes. Anybody who was there seemed to have a good time.
Andy: Did you serve alcohol?
Sam: Everybody drank, but Somebody got drunk but Nobody left early.
Andy: So what time was the party over?
Sam: I said Nobody left early but Somebody stayed until midnight. For the next party I have I’m not inviting Everybody, but Somebody can come.
Andy: Oh, but you’re not sure who yet?
Sam: I’ll invite Somebody, and Anybody can come too.
Andy: Well, if anybody can come, you might have everybody show up.
Sam: I don’t want Everybody at my party.
Andy: So who else are you inviting?
Andy: Can I come?
Sam: Sure, but you like Everybody and I’m not inviting Everybody, but if Somebody comes, you are welcomed to come too.”
Andy: So if somebody shows up, you’ll call and invite me?
Sam: Yes. Nobody will probably accept my invitation.”
Andy: I’m sure somebody will.
Sam: You’re right, Somebody will and then I hope Anybody comes.
Andy: Then if anybody can come, you’ll have everybody there!
Sam: I’m not going to invite Everybody. I’d rather have Nobody show up.
Andy: Then what will you do?
Sam: Nobody will be there.
Andy: Did anybody ever invite you to their party?
Sam: Nobody did.”
Andy: Well. Maybe some day somebody will invite you over for a barbecue.
Sam: I hope Somebody does, but I’m not going if Everybody is there. (He pauses) Oh, guess what else happened at my party?
Sam: Somebody told me that Everybody is having problems in their marriage.
Sam: Yes, Everybody. So I told Everybody that it’s not Anybody’s business, but Somebody told me that Nobody would find out anyway.
Andy: So then what happened?
Sam: Nobody really cares about Everybody’s marriage problems. Somebody said Anybody might be having Everybody’s problems, too.
Andy: Maybe you shouldn’t invite everybody to your next party. Somebody always starts with the gossip.
Sam: You’re right. I already made up the guest list, but now I just hope Nobody comes.
Just a reminder that if anybody wants to be a guest columnist for a week, contact me by email. Everybody is encouraged and I will help anybody develop your idea!
Rich Strack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.