What does the sentence in bold font mean? It was used by a Kiwi English speaker in a context of an email

It is very difficult to digest Sam's departure. I mentioned his name today and it does send one straight into thought.

The question is about two things:

- What does "one" refer to? 
- What does "send one straight into thought" mean?
  • 2
    It means, literally, that the mention immediately makes the hearer start thinking. But I find it difficult to believe this was written by a practised English writer: it seems more like a bad translation of something in another language, or an attempt at formal writing by a native speaker who is not very widely read. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 16 '18 at 0:05
  • So, what does "one" refer to? I understand what the general meaning is based on the context. I don't get the meaning of the sentence by itself outside of the context. – Maryam Feb 16 '18 at 0:05
  • It was written by a Kiwi English speaker who happens to be highly educated. @StoneyB – Maryam Feb 16 '18 at 0:07
  • 1
    Possibly over-educated to the point of tending to affect stilted grandiloquence. Anyway, I've answered the question about "one". The question probably needs to be edited to specify that it is the function of "one" that is the source of confusion. – tenebris2020 Feb 16 '18 at 0:24
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    @Maryam - You ought to cite the source. – J.R. Feb 16 '18 at 0:49

You might be able to understand better what "one" stands for if you replace it with "you". In many languages, when talking about a hypothetical person, "you" is used in colloquial speech.

For example, if Person A says to Person B,

This situation makes you think, doesn't it?

This sentence doesn't mean that the situation made Person B think. It means that it would make anyone think.

Since this "you" can often lead to situations where the addressee of the utterance says, "Are you talking about me? No, this doesn't apply to me", — "one" is used instead.

For example,

One could say these problems would make her rethink her approach to life.

It means simply "It could be said that..."

His response makes one wonder whether he understood the question at all.

This means that X's response probably makes anyone wonder. The speaker is definitely wondering, but s/he doesn't want to restrict the conversation to him/herself and makes the sentence apply to some abstract "anyone". It is a way to remove discussion from the speaker or the addressee so as to make it more impersonal (and not use "me" or "you").

Grammatically speaking, this word is a deictic. It is a placeholder for something else.

Regarding this particular sentence, it seems to be an ad hoc coinage (so not really an idiom that would be repeated by other speakers of English) based on constructions (much more widespread) such as:

something sent someone into a fit of rage/laughter/coughing etc.

This construction is used mostly for situations or actions that qualify as an outburst (similarly to how, if you kick a ball, it will send it into the air). Someone could try to use it metaphorically to imply that a transition from one state to another was very sudden; that a certain action was initiated very suddenly. But these metaphors often don't sound right, including this situation—because thoughts, while they can pop up in your mind, are not usually described in terms of outbursts.

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  • 1
    Great answer, thank you for that. So is it correct to say "send someone into thought" is sort of an idiom and it means "make someone think"? – Maryam Feb 16 '18 at 0:33
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    @Maryam One could say that it is an idiom (see what I did there?), but I'd say that this is an idiom that this Kiwi person made up himself. It really does sound very awkward. One could call this a "nonce idiom". Meaning it is not widespread (basically, it's just an invention of this guy, so its occurrence in language is equal to 1), and since it sounds very stilted, you'd do good not to repeat it. In such situations you should say, "It makes one think." – tenebris2020 Feb 16 '18 at 0:39
  • @Maryam I've added an explanation of "sending someone into". – tenebris2020 Feb 16 '18 at 0:50

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