By 'somebody made me' I mean 'somebody wrote a document in a silly way and I have to reply to it' and in context the word 'persons' makes more sense/it's not possible to reword it into 'people' without losing the sense of the phrase.
2006-11-22 12:05 pm (UTC)
I've always had it in my head that persons would be a specific list of individuals, people more referes to a group or category.
Then there's peoples, of course, just to really add to the fun.
2006-11-22 12:10 pm (UTC)
Sometimes I just use it for comedy/quaint effect, e.g. "Persons Unknown have made off with my ruler again, give it back you bastards!" etc. I'm actually not too sure about the correctness or not of this, but meh to it all says I.
2006-11-22 12:10 pm (UTC)
I use 'persons' rarely, but occasionally it seems to make more sense - when I am referring to a small number of specific (but not necessarily specified) *separate* persons. A group always consists of people rather than persons, but in cases like 'The characters in this story are not based on real persons', or 'no two persons may be in the elevator at the same time' I might use persons.
I would if I was feeling particularly anachronistic, but that's just me. I would also possibly use it to describe a group, who I did not wish to refer to as "people", because I was feeling disparaging; "persons" seems less personal as a plural than "people".
I'm not sure if either of these are really useful, or just me writing strange.
I find that referring to chavs at creatures and not people works just fine.
If it had an aesthetic appeal, i.e. whenever a whim might take me, or when an unknown number may be as low as one, e.g. "person or persons unknown", or if "people" were already being used in its other meaning (or indeed this meaning but for another group) in the discussion at hand, to avoid ambiguity, e.g. "the people of Britain recognised several persons of particular import in their history" or "there were a lot of people involved in the disturbance, but only a few select persons among them were truly responsible for the ensuing riot".
(That last example is not particularly aesthetically pleasing, but it's off the top of my head as a demonstration.)
I know they use that word on Law and Order now and then. Kind of a legal/police thing.
Yes, my main example was "department of missing persons."
But I also think a construction "travellers should carry their passports on their persons at all times when visiting XYZ" would be a situation where I'd use it.
I'd say "with them" instead of "on their persons". The latter is overly complicated, and smacks of ill-educated officialdom trying to sound bigger and cleverer than they really are.
In my mental scheme, persons can be singular or plural, whereas people are always plural. I'd only ever really use persons in a legal sense, or for specific (somewhat archaic) effect.
I might use it in special contexts where it is traditionally used e.g. "God in three persons". Also for grammatical terminology e.g. "English distinguishes three persons in its pronoun system, and two numbers".
"Person or persons unknown" is a phrase that sounds right that comes into my head.
Mainly I'd go for "people", though.
'Persons' has a legalistic Victorian sound to it. I doubt that I would have cause to write that way except in jest.
There are some phrases where I'd use persons - missing persons, persons unknown, persons of interest, etc.
2006-11-27 02:16 pm (UTC)
Much the same here.
And also with the "small number of specific (but not necessarily specified) people" sense.
In addition to the referring-to-specific-persons rather than generic-people sense, I also might use "persons" if something about physicality was implied. The jewels were not found on the suspects' persons, for instance.