We Americans sometimes seem to view Canada as a kind of Legoland version of our own country — one in which we see pretty much our own values, worldview, language, and culture, albeit not with the perfect clarity one might find in, say, a mirror or a well-executed still life painting.

What does the first "one" and the second "one" mean? What does the word "still" here mean?


The first one is the indefinite pronoun referring to country—that is, one country, a country.

The second is the indefinite pronoun denoting an indefinite agent—it might be replaced with somebody or anybody or (usually in colloquial registers) you.

Still in still life has the sense not moving. Still lifes (not still lives!) are works of visual art which depict inanimate objects such as plants, fruit and artifacts. Life in this phrase does not mean living but “depicted from life”—that is, the painting represents real visible objects, not objects imagined from history.

At J.R.'s suggestion, here is a 17th-century still life from Wikipedia; it shows the "perfect clarity" your author is talking about:

enter image description here

  • 1
    Big +1 for pointing out "not still lives!" Knowing that makes the whole concept clearer. – Jolenealaska Jul 6 '14 at 17:45
  • Note to the O.P.: I recommend doing a Google image search on still life painting. – J.R. Jul 6 '14 at 21:43
  • @Jolenealaska Hi, Jo, mistya! – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 6 '14 at 22:07

The first "one" is a reasonably common usage. In this specific sentence, you could replace it with "a version" -- "... a version [of our own country] in which we see ...".

The second "one" is a less common usage in modern English, and sounds a bit formal. Colloquially, it would be more normal to say "... you might find ..."

You should read "still life" as an idiomatic phrase that can't be split apart. It refers to a particular type of artwork (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Still_life .) The word "still" in "still life" comes from the fact that it's usually a painting of inanimate (i.e. not moving) things. But in this usage it doesn't have a separate meaning apart from the whole phrase "still life".

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