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In Persian, Somali(an Afroasiatic language) and Arabic when we want to generalize a particular kind of person (as a symbol) to a large number of people we say:

We have many Xs & Ys & etc in our society, these children are our future.

Or

There are many Xs & Ys & etc(somone's name+[s]) in our society, these children are our future.

I wonder if we can say the following sentences in English:

"There are many examples of Xs and Ys in our society."

Or

There are many Xs & Ys among ourselves who can build our future.

Are these structures acceptable?

NOTE: X & Y are fictitous names. (e.g. Xs: Toms & Ys: Juliets)

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  • Your question is not perfectly clear. Are you asking about fictitious common names in English (e.g. Any Tom, Dick, or Harry would know the answer to this question or The average Joe doesn't want to travel two hours to work) or about using a particular named person as an exemplar, in the plural? There are few Elon Musks in our society.?
    – TimR
    Sep 5, 2018 at 12:53
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    Note: For standard American English, you overuse the ampersand. Unless you're space constrained (like on a logo or sign or tweet), you should write out "and" rather than "&" in lists. "Persian, Somali, and Arabic", not "Persian, Somali, & Arabic".
    – Deolater
    Sep 5, 2018 at 13:16
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo In spite of the fact that you are right, I'm truly surprised by MaciejStachowski's answer. I mean How could he answer?
    – a.RR
    Sep 5, 2018 at 19:57
  • Maciej begins "If I understand you correctly..." I assume that the "Tom" in that answer is a common name chosen for the purposes of illustration, not an actual name. A name so common that it cannot be linked to any one person since it can be linked to millions or at least hundreds of thousands. Let's call him 'Tom'... There are many Toms out there who ... But we also employ this rhetorical trope with actual names. We need more Jonas Salks and Albert Sabins.
    – TimR
    Sep 5, 2018 at 21:26
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo You know, I was just thinking about my last comment, and finally I came to this conclusion that ‘That’s absolute nonsense, Amirhosein!’
    – a.RR
    Sep 5, 2018 at 21:37

1 Answer 1

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If I understand you correctly, the context is something like:

Tom is 40 years old and living with his mother. (...more about Tom). But there are many Toms in our society - 42% of people aged 30-50 have never moved out to their own place.

I think it's an understandable metaphor, although I'm having a hard time finding a citation for it.

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  • You're absolutely right, but what are we gonna say if we want to mention another person (who has the same situation as Tom) simultaneously. I mean, I wonder if this sentence sounds natural: "But there are many Toms & Jacks in our society - 42% of people aged 30-50 have never moved out to their own place."
    – a.RR
    Sep 5, 2018 at 9:16
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    @AmirhoseinRiazi I don't think there's much of a difference - if you've introduced two people in the same situation, then "Toms and Jacks" (I'd avoid using an ampersand when unnecessary) sounds fine. Sep 5, 2018 at 9:38
  • +1. ... and there are many Amirhoseins on ELL asking questions about what is idiomatic in English. Amirhosein would have to have been mentioned previously in the context, as Maciej does in the answer.
    – TimR
    Sep 5, 2018 at 12:42
  • The ampersand suggests that Tom and Jack are a known duo, like Simon & Garfunkel. There's no problem with having multiple names ...many Toms and Jacks and Janes ...
    – TimR
    Sep 5, 2018 at 12:47
  • Therefore, I'm so lucky that there are many @Tᴚoɯɐuo s and Maciejs here in this site.
    – a.RR
    Sep 5, 2018 at 19:39

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