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Yo is a Pronoun, yo.
March 12, 2013 1:13 PM   Subscribe

Check out yo down in Baltimore enriching American English.
posted by Mister_A (34 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Does anyone know if this grew since it was noted 5 years ago? I'd be interested if it did.
posted by inturnaround at 1:14 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It always was a pronoun--a possessive pronoun, no?
The kids are just widening the usage a bit.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:15 PM on March 12, 2013


Looks like most of the citations are also from around 2008; here's a roundup.

And mea culpa, I failed to note the date on that post!
posted by Mister_A at 1:18 PM on March 12, 2013


Yo is used extensively in Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, David Simon's 1991 book.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:22 PM on March 12, 2013


(by the cops, I should add)
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:23 PM on March 12, 2013


Yo is used extensively in Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, David Simon's 1991 book.

As a noun, yes.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:26 PM on March 12, 2013


In the past I've advocated strongly for using they as a gender-neutral singular pronoun when you can't rewrite the sentence to make the whole thing plural, and I still believe that's the best solution, but I also think the emergence of yo to fill this role in slang is fascinating.

YES. When can I update the English language and make "they" a gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun???

Maybe I'll just stop paying attention to those who tell me it's wrong. I'm not out of order, you're out of order! THIS WHOLE LANGUAGE IS OUT OF ORDER!
posted by GuyZero at 1:27 PM on March 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've heard it in my younger days.

As in "yo got a new a coat" or, more likely, "yo got some white".

Or there's the well-known "ol' boy". "Look at ol' boy over there in them platform shoes. Yo got me buggin'."

Or something.

I've always felt like language is such a fluid thing, that changes like this probably come and go without notice more often than not.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:34 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yo is used extensively in Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, David Simon's 1991 book.

It's also used a lot in The Wire as a noun, generally referring to the younger kids as "little yos".
posted by LionIndex at 1:35 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I grew up in Baltimore (County) and never knew "yo" was a regional thing.

It's also used as a general modifier at the end of sentences- for example someone attempting a difficult basketball shot would yell out "Jordan, yo!"

And we used to call white kids who were into hip-hop music or style "yo-boys."
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:55 PM on March 12, 2013


(I remember these terms from the late '80s btw, and they were probably in use long before that.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:56 PM on March 12, 2013


Yo sé.
posted by MtDewd at 2:12 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, its Grammar Girl!

Cannot unhear!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:24 PM on March 12, 2013


When can I update the English language and make "they" a gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun???
If Shakespeare couldn't do it, your odds are poor.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 2:25 PM on March 12, 2013


Now that I read about it I realize that I do hear this all the time walking around Baltimore.
posted by josher71 at 3:10 PM on March 12, 2013


If Baltimore is pron. Ballmer, does that mean the Microsoft guy is really Steve Baltimore?
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:19 PM on March 12, 2013


For years I've thought English could really use a good neutral third-person singular pronoun.

And for years, I've thought every candidate was not good.
posted by Zed at 3:34 PM on March 12, 2013


♫♪ yo didn't know that I was poor, yo never saw my place ♪♫
posted by lefty lucky cat at 3:36 PM on March 12, 2013


Interestingly, "shit" and "fuck" are also pronouns in English.

And if you don't believe me, then you don't know shit about grammar.
posted by sour cream at 3:43 PM on March 12, 2013


That is perfect. We have needed a good word to replace the dreaded he/she.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 4:18 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's a cool development. Still, it seems inessential as an innovation to me because I am entirely past entertaining the possibility for even a moment that 'they' as a gender neutral singular pronoun is anything but 100% idiomatic English. If anyone disagrees with me, they can go straight to hell.

What's even better, is that living in Germany I tell people all the time that it is idiomatic English. I'm just saying that I'm doing my part to improve the language. But seriously, are there people for whom 'they' as 'he/she' doesn't seem idiomatic? Maybe it's a Canadian/Toronto thing, but I don't think anyone has ever batted an eyelash at me for that usage, and when I do see people use he or she in the case where the gender isn't clear, I find that distinctly non-idiomatic and somewhat archaic.

What I would appreciate is better solutions to the second person singular/plural ambiguity in english. Since learning German where they do make this distinction, it irks me to no end. All the solutions I've seen - yous, y'all, and you guys - are equally terrible. Actually, I rely on you guys, and I find that one to be the worst. To be honest, I do find y'all to be the best solution, but coming from Toronto, I just can't pull it off.
posted by Alex404 at 4:22 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I heard this quite a lot in Baltimore, at least as far back as the late 80s.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:15 PM on March 12, 2013


I guess "yo" is catching up to "dude."

I grew up in Baltimore (County) and never knew "yo" was a regional thing.

The general yo (translation: "hey") is a Philadelphia thing, isn't it?

It's also used as a general modifier at the end of sentences- for example someone attempting a difficult basketball shot would yell out "Jordan, yo!"

Pretty sure that's a modification of y'all, yo.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:29 PM on March 12, 2013


The Brand New Heavies - State of Yo
posted by gen at 5:30 PM on March 12, 2013


That Brand New Heavies song is from 1992, fwiw.
posted by gen at 5:35 PM on March 12, 2013


Metafilter:
"They even went so far as to review lyrics from over 3,000 rap songs to see if it might have come from rap music, but they didn't find anything"
posted by deathpanels at 5:36 PM on March 12, 2013


Yo, she has major vocal fry issues.
posted by Plug1 at 6:26 PM on March 12, 2013


I hear the kids have been using it as a pronoun for years in all those Mexican speaking countries. See what happens when you let foreigners come to our country and mix with our kids!
posted by Che boludo! at 6:27 PM on March 12, 2013


GuyZero: "When can I update the English language and make "they" a gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun??? "

God already did. (More) Updating English teachers is left as an exercise to the reader.
posted by dendrochronologizer at 7:30 PM on March 12, 2013


My money is on puerto rican spanglish infiltration of the English language over the last 40 years.

Philadelphia, Miami, New York where I hear yo the most often are all hotbeds of boricua communities.

Whereas along the border of Texas, Arizona, and Cali I never really heard it as much, except of course in LA, where life is as much a simulacrum of TV culture and tropes as it is an authentic culture.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 7:55 PM on March 12, 2013


My earliest data point for yo as a pronoun is Kerouac's On The Road.
posted by klausman at 8:59 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Abbot: "Yo" is a Pronoun.
Costello: Who is a pronoun?
Abbot: Yes.
Costello: Who is "yes"?
Abbot: Yes, "who" is too.
Costello: Who is too what?
Abbot: "Who" is a pronoun.
Costello: That's what I'm axing you.
posted by eddydamascene at 9:07 PM on March 12, 2013


What I would appreciate is better solutions to the second person singular/plural ambiguity in english. Since learning German where they do make this distinction, it irks me to no end.

English had one but dropped it. Did thou not know that?
posted by BWA at 6:01 AM on March 13, 2013


"Didst thou not," surely?
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 10:46 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


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