Monday, October 03, 2022

SHOLEH: Sho’nuff y’all good

| July 14, 2022 1:00 AM

Well slap my head and call me silly: “Y’all” is, and y’all are, retaking yon claim to fame in American English.

But none o’that “all y’all” nonsense, says yo’ MLP. Mm-mm. Mrs. Language Person don’t set no store by that. (Southern literary license excusin’ this grammatical lapse into the vernacular. Sic.)

With all due respect to our Mr. Ford, Press reader, letter writer, an’ defender of y’all and all y’all (shudder), not every self-respectin’ southerner doth agree with both. I.e., MLP. Hearin’ all y’all just dills her pickle.

Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit, you say. Doesn’t he have a point?

Why yes, y’all is a perfectly valid contraction for “you all” — a more perfect and certainly much clearer plural of the pronoun, “you.” “Y’all” is certainly fittin’. It fills a lexical hole in English — a plural only the second person pronoun lacks (why “they” and “we,” but not a plural option for poor “you?”)

How else, your MLP asks, may one distinguish between the singular you and plural you? Do they not look and sound identical? Should folks not have some indication of the speaker’s meaning, a delineation between one and more than one?

Such confusion risks chaos. If your MLP means you, lone Reader, to cross Sherman Avenue at noon on a busy Friday, and not you, all Readers, to do the same — mightn’t that ambiguity lead to a mass pedestrian free-for-all? A plethora of people in pandemonium on the pavement?

A real cattywampus, that’d be.

Don’t getch yer britches caught on a pitchfork. Y’all (people in plural) just hold tight. You (the one and only) go right ahead.

Yes, Dear Mr. Ford, all y’all is indeed heard down south. But as a longtime Texan goin’ back generations, ah must say, suh, not all quite agree on its legit’macy. Some among us do draw a line.

So it’s you, and y’all. An’ that’s all, darlin’. But MLP is much obliged for remindin’ these good folks that y’all has a rightful place in our esteemed language and culture — not only down he-uh, but up north with dem yankees, too.

“Y’all” is (are) no stranger to Idaho-speak. Just listen to some of the long-timers who y’all will never catch saying, “you guys.”

Bless their li’l ol’ hearts.

Speaking historically, y’all did start dialectically in southern states, a combination of southern culture and African-American vernacular which migrated northward. Other English-speaking cultures have adopted alternatives for second-person plural pronouns, such as the Irish “yous or youse,” U.K.’s “you guys” or more popular “you lot,” and “wunna” in Barbados.

Why not stick with “you guys?” Because some as your Mrs. Language Person — to use more modern parlance — identify as female. Some prefer not to be thought of as the historically male “guys.” Perhaps some o’ y’all beg to differ, arguin’ that gender-specific thang is no mo’.

But ah do declare, if somebody is pretty as a peach on a hot summer’s day does “guy” come to mind? I’ll tell you what; that dog just won’t hunt.

No suh. That’s jus’ making a silk purse outa a cow’s ear. Down yonder where it’s hotter ‘n blue blazes ladies, gentlemen, and ever’body genteel-like says y’all.

And admittedly, all y’all. But just ‘cause a chicken has wings don’t mean it can fly.

• • •

Mrs. Language Person and Sholeh Patrick are southern-Idaho-mutt transplant columnists for the Hagadone News Network. Email

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