Dot’s Reading Room – Y’all for Yankees?

January 4, 2023
Dot's Reading Room by Dorothy Bergin

This is the time of year when compilers of dictionaries and others who follow the latest trends in language issue “new” words added to the lexicon or call out changes in ordinary speech.

One change that may be going mainstream is “y’all,” as the plural for you, according to scholarly research reported in The Conversation. Plurals of you in other parts of the country might be “youse,” or the ubiquitous “you guys,” no longer in favor for obvious reasons.

David B. Parker, Professor of History, Kennesaw State University, writes:

“Y’all,” that most Southern of Southernisms, is going mainstream – and it’s about time.

Southern Living magazine once described “y’all” as “the quintessential Southern pronoun.” It’s as iconically Southern as sweet tea and grits.

“While “y’all” is considered slang, it’s a useful word nonetheless. The English language doesn’t have a good second person plural pronoun; “you” can be both singular and plural, but it’s sometimes awkward to use as a plural. It’s almost like there’s a pronoun missing. “Y’all” fills that second person plural slot – as does “you guys,” “youse,” “you-uns” and a few others.”

South Jersey natives will recognize “youse” which, happily, I never hear in these parts. And apparently, Pittsburgh has its own plural for you and it’s “yinz.” Citizen readers from Pittsburgh, please confirm! 

So, how hard would it be for one Bedfordite to greet another with “How’re y’all doing?” “Are y’all going to take a winter vacation?”

And maybe it’s not too late for me to return to my native colloquialism, even though I’ve lived in the north for decades.  Here’s a link to Prof. Parker’s article:

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