He's (a) Kennedy.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by JungKim, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    Given that Kennedy is a family name, when someone is a member of the family, which do you say?:
    (1) He's Kennedy.
    (2) He's a Kennedy.

    If you can say both, is there a clear difference in meaning between the two?
     
  2. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    I would always use 2.
     
  3. perpend

    perpend Senior Member

    American English
    I would use 2, too.

    You could pull off 1, in something like this "He's Kennedy through and through." -or- "He's all Kennedy."

    But again, 2 is best.
     
  4. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    If it's not "Kennedy" but a normal last name, the same answer?
     
  5. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    Yes, he's a Smith/Jones/Kim/Vivekanandan. :)

    I would also use "a" in perpend's example: He's a Kennedy, through and through.
     
  6. perpend

    perpend Senior Member

    American English
    When it get's very familiar, you can drop the "a".
     
  7. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    But then, you add a title, you drop the "a".
    He's Dr. Kennedy.
    He's Mr. Kennedy. (?)
     
  8. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    This isn't the same thing at all. In "He's a Kennedy," you are speaking of a type of person that the name evokes. With Dr. or Mr., you're simply introducing a particular individual.

    But, yes, you drop the "a."
     
  9. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    In certain British contexts, it's possible to address people by their surnames alone (as this is common in public schools, and gets carried over to some work contexts). So, in such a context, someone might say, 'He's Kennedy, and beside him is Cunningham'.

    However, if you're talking about the Kennedy clan (in the American context), I'd say, 'He's a Kennedy' (with the meaning as discussed by Copyright).
     
  10. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    Come to think of it, you certainly can say "I'm Bond. James Bond."
    By the same token, you can say "He's Bond." No??
     
  11. perpend

    perpend Senior Member

    American English
    I think there are a couple topics going now.

    Let's for the sake of discussion use "New York".

    He's New York, through and through.
    He's so New York.

    If you want to emphasize that he is quintessentially "Kennedy", I don't think you need the article.

    He's Kennedy, through and through.

    "Kennediness" is the core of his nature.
     
  12. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    Moving from people to cities only confuses the issue.
    You've made that point three times now ... some of us would still use the article "a" in that context.
     
  13. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, in the context that I was describing. I don't think Americans are as happy doing this though - wait for some confirmation.
     
  14. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    Somehow, my thinking, unreliable as it is, is the opposite of perpend's. :eek:

    To me, "He's a Kennedy." is more like an ascriptive use of "to be", thereby ascribing the property of being a member of the Kennedy family to the subject "he".

    "He's Kennedy", on the other hand and as natkretep pointed out, is more like a specifying use of "to be", simply specifying who he is.
     
  15. b3n5p34km4n Junior Member

    American English
    It's quite interesting to me that I find none of these responses satisfactory... I'd say that "he's a Kennedy" would be said to someone who is already familiar with other Kennedys that are related to the man in question, so the same meaning as "he's one of them." But "he's Kennedy" would be synonymous with "that's Kennedy" or "his name is Kennedy", perhaps with an accompanying hand gesture towards Kennedy. The distinction would be that one is spoken with reference to the person's family and the other is just identifying the man himself, with no regards to whom he might be related. Personally, I could never see "he's Kennedy" to be a way to DESCRIBE a person, only a way to IDENTIFY a person. So not an adjective, but a name.
     
  16. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    The rest of your post seems to repeat what has already been said by one person or another, so I'm not sure why you don't find any of these responses satisfactory.
     
  17. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    Wow, b3n said exactly the same thing as what I just said. :D
     

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