One and the same or One in the same

Introduction

With so many idioms in the English language, it’s no wonder that some of them can be misheard from time to time. The one I want to talk about today is “One and the Same”.

Despite what you might hear, the correct way of saying it is “One and the same” and not “One in the same”.

This phrase comes from a definition of one that means identical. If two separate objects or entities are always working together, we might say they act as one.

“Jane and John act like one.”

Today, I want to go deeper into what “one and the same means”, where it comes from, and why it gets misheard so often.

What does it mean?

Suppose two things are “One and the same”. In that case, that just means they’re incredibly similar, and it’s hard to spot any significant differences between the two.

For example, when listening to a political debate, somebody might say, and Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are “One and the same”. The person is saying this that these two men have such similar views and leadership styles that they are difficult to tell apart.

You might have also heard it be said that “Hatred and fear are one and the same”. To hate someone is no different to being fearful of them.

Origin

The origins of the phrase “One and the same” goes all the way back to Latin, where they had the expression “Unus et idem”, which literally translates to “One and the same”.

This isn’t one of those phrases that have popped up recently due to a popular book or movie, it has been around even before the English language was. And who knows, maybe it will stay around, even after nobody is speaking English anymore.

The first published usage of “One and same” in English wasn’t seen until 1531

Why the confusion?

If the correct way of saying it is “one and the same”, why is it that so many people keep on saying “one in the same”?

This is likely due to how we pronounce words that lead to one another.

If you’re alone, I want you to say “One and the same” and “One in the same”. You will find that however you pronounce it, it will often end up just sounding like “One en the same”.

You probably don’t even notice unless you’re paying close attention to what you’re saying. But the only way to make it clear you’re saying “and” not “in” is to speak slowly.

Metaphorical language

Metaphorical language is what gets used when we want to describe something, but in terms that don’t literally describe it.

When you are saying that two things are “one and the same”, you’re not saying that they’re literally clones of each other. You’re just saying they’re incredibly similar.

For example, very few people actually think that Trump and Boris are one single person. However, because of their policies, it could be argued they seem to be.

Likewise, hatred and fear and two different emotions, but their similarities make them come across as synonymous.

Origin of “same”

“Same” is such a common word, we use it daily, and don’t even think about where it comes from.

It was brought over when the Normans invaded from France. They brought their word “Samr”, which soon evolved into “same”.

But where does that word come from?

Before the Norse, the Pro-Germanic people had the word “samaz”. And even before them, the Proto-Indo-Europeans’ had Sem One.

It makes sense that “same” has an etymology that goes back so far in time. The idea of two things being identical has been around ever since we emerged from our caves.

Other misheard phrases

Of course, this isn’t the only phrase that gets misheard a lot.

When you blame someone so that you can get away scot-free, you are accused of using that person as a “Scapegoat”.

Some people have misheard this as “Escape goat” or even “Escaped Goat” but the correct term is “ScapeGoat”.

When you want to get a task out the way, so it’s out of your mind, you might say that you have “Nipped it in the bud”. This phrase is commonly misheard as “Nip it in the Butt”.

And finally, when things get tough, you might describe your life as being in a “Dog eat dog world”. This is the right way of saying it, not “Doggy dog world”.

Alternatives

There are of course plenty of other ways to express the fact you view two things as the same thing.

You could just be right to the point and use only one or two words. “Identical”, “The same”. This is great for if you’re in a casual situation and don’t want to waste time by saying idioms.

You could also throw some humour in there, and say “Tomato Tomato”- pronounced “Toe may toe Toe mar toe”. Showing that the same thing can have different names.

What tense is it in?

There is no denying that “One and the same”is a sentence in the present tense. But if we want to go a bit deeper than that, we could say it’s in the present simple.

Present simple is talking about general truths, “Bats fly”, “Candles flicker”, and not necessarily about what is happening at this exact moment.

If you wanted to say “One and the same” in the present continuous, you would need to say “They are being one and the same”. Which takes up more words than simply “They are one and the same”.

Conclusion

“One and the same” is often misheard for “One in the same” likely because “and” and “in” both sound like “en” when said as part of a sentence.

Despite the mishearing, it’s one of the oldest idioms in our language, dating back to the Latin times. However, it wasn’t until 1531 that we saw it’s first published use.

Because saying that two things are “one” is implying they’re awfully similar, “one and the same” is a clear example of metaphorical language.

Alternatives to “one and the same” include, “Are identical”, “Tomato Tomato”, and plenty of others.