The Irish Connection

Posted by Word Camel on February 03, 2002

In Reply to: All ya'll posted by Marian 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).

: : : In western Pennsylvania, the northernmost reaches of Appalachian speech, "you-uns" is slurred into "yuns" but pronounced more like "yins." "Are yuns going to lunch?"

: : I moved To Texas as a child. Because my family are from South Dakota and Eastern Montana, my naive accent is fairly soft - think Tom Browkaw. Anyway, as a matter of survival, I had to learned to use and say ya'll from scratch. Actually I said "you all" for about a year then finally slipped into the slur over time.

: : In my experience "All ya'll" is used as a way of emphasising inclusiveness. "All ya'll are invited to my party." The idea being that the group - this special group and no one else - is invited. In other words, it isn't meant to indicate a plural because it's understood that ya'll is already a group. I know it doesn't seem logical. That's because it isn't. All I can say is that to use it in the other sense just wouldn't be right.

: : I personally haven't heard ya'll used in the singular. At least in Texas, the pronoun, "you" is still alive and well.

: I used to have a boss who used "youse guys" whenever he addressed the lot of us. He was originally from Keokuk, Iowa, which is in the most southern part of the state. This usuage amazed and amused me. He sounded like a character out of a 1930s Chicago gangster film when he spoke this way.

Some people from Ireland use "youse" too, though not "youse guys".