You-All

Over the years I have consistently seen errors in spelling and grammar and I always say something, even when I shouldn’t. I can’t help it. I know that I am not perfect and we all take liberties now and then but one thing that will always bother me – and probably because I’m from the south – is when people spell you all as ya’ll instead of y’all (check out this website for more apostrophe errors).

Okay, I realize this isn’t that big of a deal to some people. But, to me, it’s like spelling you’re as your. It’s a pet peeve and an annoying one at that. I can’t help but double check my work and go back and correct mistakes I find in my own writing and it bothers the heck out of me that people don’t do that in their own work. It’s like they just don’t care. This speaks more to their personality than anything and definitely not in a good way. For me, when I’m making a mistake I want to know. I want to change. I want to constantly improve.

I mean, don’t get me wrong… I understand that we all make mistakes and most are unintentional. I also understand that if we’re never shown any different, then we may not know the correct way to spell, speak, or even behave for that matter. Once you are exposed to the correct form and usage, it is your responsibility to adapt as necessary. Once someone points out that it’s you’re (you are) and not your (as in something you have). It shouldn’t be a mistake made any further.

This same concept is applied to y’all. It’s a contraction. We learned in grade school that the apostrophe takes the place of the missing letters. Like in the word don’t, it is a shortened form of do and then not where the words are combined and the o in not is replaced by an apostrophe. You’re is a shortened form of you are where the words are combined and the a in are is replaced by an apostrophe. Therefore, y’all is a shortened form of you all where the words are combined and the ou is replaced by an apostrophe. If it were ya’ll then the apostrophe is in the wrong place and the original words would have to have been something else. Maybe yahoo fall? Or yarn ball? or yak call?

There are currently four generally recognized properties that “y’all” follows:

  1. A replacement for the plural of you.
    • Example: “Y’all can use the internet at the same time.”
  2. An associative plural, including individuals associated but not present with the singular addressee.
    • Example: “Y’all can come over at around 10:30,” Chris says. – Chris explains to John that John and John’s friends, who are not present at the time, can come over at around 10:30. Chris is speaking to John, but treats John as a representative for others.
  3. An institutional plural addressed to one person representing a group.
    • Example: “Y’all sell the best candies, Mrs. Johnson.” – Y’all is received by Mrs. Johnson who is the representative of a small candy business.
  4. A form used in direct address in certain contexts (e.g., partings, greetings, invitations, and vocatives)
    • Example: “Hey, y’all!”- A greeting that addresses a multitude of people without referencing a singular identity comprising that multitude

Rather than say you-allyou-unsyou lot, or you guys… y’all may be construed as a single element requiring only one morpheme. You all arose as a means of distinguishing the second-person plural from the second-person singular, very much like vosotros (you others), the Spanish second-person plural, the latter having arisen when vos (originally the second-person plural) became the prevailing polite second-person singular term.

Now that you know… you don’t have to make the mistake anymore. Please spread the word. When you notice someone mis-using y’all, please correct them. You can blame it on me. I’m fine with that. Also, please know that slang is something different altogether. When we write funny words like “interwebs” or “for reals” or “dizam” we are doing so to place emphasis on the hilarity and not because we don’t know better. Y’all is an actual word and it deserves to be written correctly. For more fun in regards to the subject of grammar, I highly recommend Eats, Shoots & Leaves. GREAT BOOK!

Okay, I’m off my soap-box (one of many I have, I know). Back to your regularly scheduled programming. LOL. I hope that Y’ALL have a wonderful weekend! 🙂

Reference: Ching, Marvin K. L. (2001) Plural You/Y’all Variation by a Court Judge: Situational Use. American Speech – Volume 76, Number 2, pp. 115-127. Duke University Press.

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