Y'all: Plural form

Posted by ESC on February 03, 2002

In Reply to: Y'all: Plural form posted by Jim on February 03, 2002

: : : I always thought y'all (meaning you all) was plural. However, during a trip down to South Carolina to purchase a sailplane several years ago, I heard a resident address a group of people as "All y'all". Recently, I checked the web and "All y'all" shows up in multiple documents including an article in "The Onion". Y'all, apparently, is now singular, meaning you in particular. Do all y'all have any other examples of a phrase changing form or a formal name for the transformation? Also, how long has "all y'all" been in common usage?

: : I love "The Onion," but I wouldn't count on it as an authority on language.

: : y'all; you-all - pronoun. "Means 'all of you.' It is used in speaking to two or more people, never to just one person except by DAMNYANKEES TRYING TO BE CUTE (emphasis mine), or who don't know any better. Besides, 'you all' is sanctioned by biblical use (Job 17:10). Grammatically speaking, 'ya'll' is known as the 'generous plural'' so is Yankee 'youse,' rural and mountain 'you-uns,' and the interesting 'mongst-ye,' which used to be heard in coastal North Carolina and Virginia." From "Southern Stuff: Down-home Talk and Bodacious Lore from Deep in the Heart of Dixie" by Mildred Jordan Brooks (Avon Books, New York, 1992).

: You have the yankee part right, but I'm a little young for damnation or remembrances of the War of Northern Aggression. If you have personal anecdotes of either, I'm eager to hear them.

: Also, I plead innocent to both cuteness and ignorance. Just the messenger here. While in Spartanburg, SC, I was addressed personally as y'all and all y'all when in a group. Can't get much more south then SC, but I also heard all y'all last December in Mobile, New Orleans, Houma and all the way up the river through the bootheel. Y'all had dropped out of general usage by St. Louis, though everyone still persisted in calling pop soda.

: Thanks for the definition of generous plural. By the way, what do you put on your grits? I heard Miracle Whip mixed with filé (fee-lay) powder is popular, but I haven't had the nerve to try it.

I'm not from the South so I don't fix grits. Here in my adopted home of Kentucky they serve cheese grits at the Derby Breakfast. That's all I know about that.