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The Sprawl of Y'all
July 10, 2005 10:30 AM   Subscribe


 
thank god for that. what fresh hell would we be in if in a hundred years if "you's guys" became was common parlance?
posted by ab3 at 10:39 AM on July 10, 2005


ahem. excuse me. i meant:

thank god for that. what fresh hell would we be in if in a hundred years "you's guys" was common parlance?
posted by ab3 at 10:42 AM on July 10, 2005


lol what fresh hell have y'all come up with now
posted by nervousfritz at 10:44 AM on July 10, 2005


When I was a kid in NYC I'd never heard the expression "wait on" used to mean "wait for" (as in "I've been waiting on you for an hour - where have you been?). I first heard it in Colorado. Now it seems to have migrated east, and can be heard in the national media.
posted by QuietDesperation at 10:44 AM on July 10, 2005


I like "y'all" because it differentiates between just one person and a group of two or more, which is usually done via context but not always.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:45 AM on July 10, 2005


I do tend to use it, but, generally, in a self-mocking mode...
posted by Samizdata at 10:46 AM on July 10, 2005


Many black people I've known in NYC use "y'all" possibly learned from southern relatives. Their white classmates probably picked it up from them. New York speech is weird. You'll hear people of all nationalities use yiddishisms like "schmuck," and "oy vey," mainly because they hear them and like the sound of them.

I'd like to see "reckon" come into more general usage, myself cause it's a cool word. I reckon I'll post this now, y'all.
posted by jonmc at 10:53 AM on July 10, 2005


The first non-southern use of y'all I noticed was rap musicians. Seems like it's often in the form of the phrase "fuck all y'all". What's next "fixin' to"?
posted by Carbolic at 10:54 AM on July 10, 2005


It's gender neutral? And it spread via not only black people in the north, but pop music (rap, rock and soul)?
posted by raysmj at 10:55 AM on July 10, 2005


I would never use it, and find its use completely unacceptable in New England. We didn't send all those men to die in the Civil War just to become linguistic France to Jesusland's Germany.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:56 AM on July 10, 2005


Why is [y'all] becoming so popular...?
Because only stupid people say it; and sadly, stupid people know no state boundaries. However, it at least serves as an easy litmus test when first meeting someone; if their vocabulary includes "y'all," then you can easily and immediately adjust your opinion of their IQ downward.
posted by nlindstrom at 10:57 AM on July 10, 2005


Just remember "y'all" is PLURAL. The singular is "thee" or "thou".


(2nd person) NOM OBJ POSS

singular: Thou Thee Thy (or thine)
plural: Y'all Y'all Yourn (or yours)


"NOM" is the nominative case, "OBJ" = objective case, "POSS" = possessive case.
posted by davy at 10:58 AM on July 10, 2005


some areas of the upper midwest do have some southern influence ... around s.w. michigan, i've noticed a tendency for some to say "hey" instead of "hi" or "hello" ... and y'all does seem to be spreading a bit
posted by pyramid termite at 10:59 AM on July 10, 2005


Metafilter: Fixin' to fuck all'yall, I reckon, for making youse guys wait on me in this fresh hell.
posted by rolypolyman at 10:59 AM on July 10, 2005


Because only stupid people say it; and sadly, stupid people know no state boundaries. However, it at least serves as an easy litmus test when first meeting someone; if their vocabulary includes "y'all," then you can easily and immediately adjust your opinion of their IQ downward.

Yankee.
posted by ladd at 11:03 AM on July 10, 2005


Metafilter: Fixin' to fuck all'yall, I reckon, for making youse guys wait on me in this fresh hell.

G'head, fuckin A, yo.
posted by jonmc at 11:03 AM on July 10, 2005


I've got kin in the south, and spent a fair amount of time there a as a kid, so I've always sorta used the expression but without thinking about it. I also 'Hey' folks a lot.

When I moved to London I noticed 'aim' and 'reckon' were far more commonly used then they were back in NYC, which I found interesting.
posted by Mutant at 11:04 AM on July 10, 2005


I'll let languagehat deal with nlindstrom. I'm sure no small part of the opposition is that y'all is a contraction, which a lot of people seem to have a problem with for some reason.

I'm Californian and a college graduate in linguistics, and I've been saying y'all ever since picking it up on a visit to Alabama in the 6th grade. It doesn't make any sense to use an ambiguous word like you when there's a readily available alternative, y'all.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 11:04 AM on July 10, 2005


jonmc: I look forward to the use of "sho 'nuff," myself. (Listen to Wilson Pickett's "I'm in Love," written by Bobby Womack, for a great use of this."I'm in Love," he sings, as a semi-angelic choir coos in the background. "Yes, i am . . . Sho 'nuff in love." And that's pretty much the whole song.)
posted by raysmj at 11:04 AM on July 10, 2005


Yeah, what Optimus Chyme said. I think it's glaringly obvious: modern English needs a distinct second-person plural. You in Middle English was the second-person plural, with thou as the singular. But thou took on the intimate form of the second-person pronoun, leaving you to do double-duty.

Many regional dialects of modern English have their version of the second-person plural.

On Preview: "Just remember 'y'all' is PLURAL."

For any of us native in a dialect featuring y'all, it is humorous to hear someone attempt to use the word, usually to affect Southern speech, but as a singular. To my ears it sound extremely wrong; although I vaguely remember that there are some dialects where the singular use of y'all is allowed. But, if so, it's the exception, not the rule.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:05 AM on July 10, 2005


"Y'all" is not a contration of "you all." It is actually a contraction of formal, olde Engish, "Ye all." Also, the article's statement that the contraction is not used in Florida is incorrect as it is widely used there, most notably north of Disney World.
posted by swlabr at 11:06 AM on July 10, 2005


Why is [y'all] becoming so popular...?

nlindstrom answered: Because only stupid people say it; and sadly, stupid people know no state boundaries.

This is to inform you that I have adjusted my estimation of your IQ as far down as it can go and still allow for functional literacy, and that I have also found your moral character is quite aptly labelled "bigoted scum". You are now dismissed.
posted by davy at 11:07 AM on July 10, 2005


As others have said, it's because modern English lacks a proper plural second-person pronoun, which is intuitively a very handy thing to have (as you discover whenever you learn a language that actually has one). I've caught myself on a few occasions saying "y'all" casually when there's some reason to emphasise the fact that I'm directly addressing more than one person, and I can assure you, nlindstrom, that not only am I not stupid, I also happen to be a professional editor and writer -- and so I have great respect both for the rules of English, as well as for its inherent flexibility and fluidity. You, however, appear to be both ill-informed and a snob.
posted by scody at 11:11 AM on July 10, 2005


Because only stupid people say it; and sadly, stupid people know no state boundaries. However, it at least serves as an easy litmus test when first meeting someone; if their vocabulary includes "y'all," then you can easily and immediately adjust your opinion of their IQ downward.
posted by nlindstrom at 10:57 AM PST on July 10


Cool post, bro; maybe you should go back to slashdot.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:11 AM on July 10, 2005


"I'd like to see "reckon" come into more general usage, myself cause it's a cool word. I reckon I'll post this now, y'all."

Wow, I'm not the only one. jonmc, join me in spreading use of the word. I reckon if we try hard enough, we can spread it to all of New York!

As for y'all, I have a feeling that the strong regional prejudice against the South that's everywhere in the Northeast will prevent its use here for a fair amount of time. Oh well. I reckon it might could make an appearance some day.
posted by invitapriore at 11:12 AM on July 10, 2005


Like all these forms, y'all is still exclusively a part of the spoken language.

We didn't send all those men to die in the Civil War just to become linguistic France to Jesusland's Germany.

Mayor Curley, youse should 'a let dose Southern states go when you had the chance.
posted by three blind mice at 11:13 AM on July 10, 2005


I second what davy just said above.
posted by marxchivist at 11:13 AM on July 10, 2005


A recent AskMe has some comments relevant for this thread.
posted by sbutler at 11:13 AM on July 10, 2005


nlindstrom, don't be a dick, ya'll.
posted by kalessin at 11:14 AM on July 10, 2005


"Why is it becoming so popular...?"

NASCAR marketing. Just a theory...
posted by paulsc at 11:14 AM on July 10, 2005


By the way, I don't use y'all, although I did as a child. Modulating my speech socially upwards, but unable to abandon the usage, I now occasionally say "you all". Less and less frequently, I think.

Languagehat will probably amble along sooner or later and he'll likely be very annoyed with nlindstrom. Or maybe not. In any event, I'm a lot more sanguine on the matter as I think that it's unlikely that dialects (and particular "rules" of usage) will ever be completely disassociated with social status. And, frankly, I've always been a bit curious why many people don't recognize this and modulate their speech accordingly.

On Preview: 'Y'all' is not a contration of 'you all.'

Historically, maybe not. In many contemporary uses, it is.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:15 AM on July 10, 2005


In Pittsburgh we had "youns", pronounced something like yewns, short for "you ones." We also had "uons", short for "us ones." So it goes like this: "youns goin dawn there? Uons stayin here."
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:16 AM on July 10, 2005


As for y'all, I have a feeling that the strong regional prejudice against the South that's everywhere in the Northeast

That prejudice is mainly confined to white, educated people. Like I said above, a large portion of northeastern blacks have family from down south who use "y'all" reflexively. In midwestern cities like Chicago, Detroit and St.Louis there are tons of transplanted white southerners who brought "y'all" with them, too. And New Yorkers are fond of linguistic quirks like "youse," "g'head," "whaddaya," "yooman." etc. (I have relatives who sound like extras from Marty).
posted by jonmc at 11:19 AM on July 10, 2005


May I suggest a correlation between the spread of y'all and the popularity of a certain Miss Spears?
posted by slimslowslider at 11:21 AM on July 10, 2005




"Y'all" is not a contration of "you all." It is actually a contraction of formal, olde Engish, "Ye all."

You're kidding, right? You know that the first letter in "ye" isn't a "y" right? It's a "thorn"-- the old english alphabet had separate letters for "th" and thorn stayed in "the" even after it was vestigial.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:22 AM on July 10, 2005


as a born and bred northwesterner, i've heartily resisted most all southernisms since i moved to texas. y'all is the notable exception, for a number of reasons, most already covered in this thread.

1. american english needs a second personal plural formation of this sort.
2. it's gender neutral. "you guys" is not. "you all" is just to asinine to be dignified with consideration.
3. it's short and efficient. one syllable, easy to distinguish.

and while "y'all" might sound silly when spoken by some, i'd stipulate that it's mostly due to their accents, not the word. i actually think that it sounds pretty good in my west-coast drawl, thankyouverymuch.

i will say that northeasterners criticizing southerners for their accents/phrases/other idiosyncrasies is really the nail not driven in very far, as this thread makes apparent. personally, i think that you yankees sound more ridiculous than pretty much anyone, even if you're not as easily stereotyped.
posted by spiderwire at 11:26 AM on July 10, 2005


Ethereal Bligh quoted me thusly: "Just remember 'y'all' is PLURAL."

You even typed in the changed quotes. I'm impressed by your pedantry, sir! (I was only kidding about "thee" and "thou"; please don't hurt me.)

My southern Appalachian girlfriend with a degree in linguistics just told me that one may use "y'all" when speaking to one person when one is addressing that person as a representative of a larger group. E.g., ParisParamis could address me as "y'all" if he meant "that group of libertarian leftists among which you number yourself". Context provides a weighty clue here.

However she herself rarely uses the word (never in anything but casual settings among others of like background) because, as you said, "it's unlikely that dialects (and particular 'rules' of usage) will ever be completely disassociated with social status." That is, she gets tired of having to deal with scum like nlindstrom on anything like its own level.
posted by davy at 11:26 AM on July 10, 2005


i'll likely lose my southern heritage membership, but i'll share a bit of a secret: many southerners know they are underestimated due to the slowness of their speech and the use of terms like y'all; however, the same southerners know that being underestimated often carries an advantage. so where many would just(ly) call nlindstrom an asshole and leave it at that, the wiser of us are more skilled at using his prejudice against him.
posted by troybob at 11:28 AM on July 10, 2005


**too asinine, even.

i realized as i posted that i would listen to an argument for canadians and minnesotans being slightly more ridiculous than yankees. i actually find australian accents endearing, but they might get included just for weird phrases alone.

"I will not partake in the wholesale defilement of American parlance!" --Opus (B. Breathed, U. Texas alum.)
posted by spiderwire at 11:31 AM on July 10, 2005


however, the same southerners know that being underestimated often carries an advantage.

I remember reading an interview with a southern born cop, who said something along the lines of "when they hear the drawl, they think I'm dumb and let down their guard. It's great for getting confessions."
posted by jonmc at 11:32 AM on July 10, 2005


troybob: shhhh!
posted by spiderwire at 11:32 AM on July 10, 2005


Languagehat will probably amble along sooner or later and he'll likely be very annoyed with nlindstrom.

Nah, nlindstrom made such a blithering idiot of himself he's a good poster child for linguistics. "Listen to what I'm telling you, or you'll end up like nlindstrom!" Also, davy gave him such a whupping I don't need to do anything but laugh.

You're kidding, right? You know that the first letter in "ye" isn't a "y" right? It's a "thorn"-- the old english alphabet had separate letters for "th" and thorn stayed in "the" even after it was vestigial.

You're kidding, right? You know that the first letter in "ye" is a "y" right? It's been there since Proto-Indo-European times, oh, about [looks at watch] 6,000 years ago, give or take fifteen minutes. But you're probably kidding. I hope.

On preview: davy also deals with the "speaking to one person" issue and is right on target.
posted by languagehat at 11:33 AM on July 10, 2005


I was raised and currently reside in north Florida, have a master's degree and say y'all every day. I also use the word reckon when it's appropriate. If you were to have a conversation with me, I think you'd find me literate, educated and not at all socially backward.

I will have to admit though, that sometimes hearing other southern natives speak (notably from Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi) makes me wince.
posted by hollygoheavy at 11:35 AM on July 10, 2005


I've been in Georgia for 8 years now. When I first got here, y'all was nails on a chalkboard to my California ears. It wasn't until I started learning Spanish and realized the importance of a second person plural tense that I came to accept y'all wholeheartedly. Now I use it liberally.
Also, I've developed a genteel southern accent by choice. I find people warm up to it faster than any other accent (and I've had a few in my time) and it helps me very much in my job as a journalist. People outside the south, while still warming to the accent, tend to look down upon you. However, it is easy enough to use this to one's advantage. They never see the southerner coming. Just look at our past several presidents.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 11:36 AM on July 10, 2005


When I moved to southeast Texas from Seattle when I was six years old, to live with relatives with strange midwestern accents, my schoolyard "HEY YOU GUYS!"s were met with blank stares and the cold shoulder. I quickly learned to say "y'all"--my first "y'all" was strange and canned, but as I'd hoped, it was the way (maybe the only way?) to capture the attention of the other six-year olds.

The first time I heard the word y'all, I was standing in a friend's home--she was 7--in the kitchen. There was a valentine made from red construction paper on the refrigerator. It read, "DEAR MOM AND DAD I LOVE YAW." I poked her and said, "That isn't how you spell 'you.'" She said, "That isn't 'you,' that's 'y'all'."

I was in trouble all the time in first and second grade, because of my incredible disrespect for authority, for not appending "ma'am" to my yeses and nos. The first time I heard "ma'am," the teacher leaned down, so that we were nearly nose-to-nose, and kept hissing at me, "Say ma'am! Say ma'am!" And I was just in total shock.

In the sixth grade, I tried desperately to make myself enjoy country music. I listened to it on the radio every day.

Eventually, I discovered it was simply easier to move out of the state. So at the end of high school, I did.

I visited my tiny hometown recently, and when I walked into a taqueria, several tables of people burst out laughing. I felt six years old again. "What's going on?" I asked my best childhood friend. "You look like you came from a city," she whispered back.

nlindstrom: Y'all was my childhood survival tool. Amending my lexicon to match that of the geography was the only way I knew I could keep from being marked as an outsider, rescuing me from the bullying of the oh-so-popular "kickers" and 4H kids. Not that it helped at all, at least till I moved away. On preview: Ohhh, what Davy said.
posted by jennanemone at 11:36 AM on July 10, 2005


"I'm impressed by your pedantry, sir!"

It would have been pedantry if I had intended for it to be instructive. Like this comment. No, for some reason when quoting I use both italics and double-quotes habitually. I'm forced to change quoted double-quotes because otherwise it looks hideous.

On Preview: "davy also deals with the 'speaking to one person' issue and is right on target."

Yes. But that wasn't what I had in mind (or maybe it was and I'm just confused). That use of the plural doesn't seem obscure to me, it's necessary. When I am referring to myself as representative of a group, I use we. It would be strange not to use the plural when the context is plural.

posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:39 AM on July 10, 2005


I frequently use "y'all" in spoken English when I intend an informal "you" (plural) just as I would for German "ihr" or "euch." I'll politely ignore anyone foolish enough to think I'm doing it out of stupidity. I've spent more than half my life in the US South and feel I've earned the privilege.
posted by alumshubby at 11:39 AM on July 10, 2005


spiderwire: i will say that northeasterners criticizing southerners for their accents/phrases/other idiosyncrasies is really the nail not driven in very far, as this thread makes apparent. personally, i think that you yankees sound more ridiculous than pretty much anyone, even if you're not as easily stereotyped.

I'm rather fond of the Simpsons episode in which the Kennedy-esque politician keeps teasing the butler for pronouncing the name of a popular soup "Chow-DARE" rather than "CHOW-da". The basic moral of the story, people who shift their vowels and and drop soft consonants from their spoken speech have no right to be snobbish about the regional linguistic quirks of others.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:42 AM on July 10, 2005


StickyCarpet, yinzer gun git dahn frum dere when ah reddit up.
posted by kcm at 11:46 AM on July 10, 2005


jonmc - You might be interested to know that "reckon" is pretty frequently used in the UK, as well as in the South.
posted by Artw at 11:47 AM on July 10, 2005


"Y'all" is not a contration of "you all." It is actually a contraction of formal, olde Engish, "Ye all."

Says who? The OED lists the first instance of "y'all" from 1909. I sho' know that ain't nobody speakin' no "Olde" English in the South then.
posted by grouse at 11:47 AM on July 10, 2005


Dubliners prefer "youse". I've managed to pass that on to my other half and my colleagues. I'm fairly sure I've never heard anyone use "y'all" in my circles in New York.
posted by jamesonandwater at 11:48 AM on July 10, 2005


It would have been pedantry if I had intended for it to be instructive.

But pedantry is the ostentatious application of your learning, not necessarily for teaching purposes.

</pedant>
posted by grouse at 11:51 AM on July 10, 2005


The basic moral of the story, people who shift their vowels and and drop soft consonants from their spoken speech have no right to be snobbish about the regional linguistic quirks of others.

Agreed, and as far as I'm concerned regional speech quirks are a refreshing blast of humanity in an increasingly homogenized world. But some accents are more stigmatized than others. Theonly one that recieves more flak than a southern accent is an outer borough New York one. My Brooklyn-raised Uncle Nick has a masters degree and works as an international banker, but his Greempernt upbringing shows in his speech. he's not above the occasional "youse" and "whaddaya" and good for him.

I remember an internet conversation where I mentioned that Carl Sagan was raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn. A freind joked that he must've trained himself not to say "Dat's a lotta fuckin' stars!"

All kidding aside. wear your acents and quirks proudly, folks.
posted by jonmc at 11:51 AM on July 10, 2005


My two year old niece has taken to saying "y'all" with no apparent influence from her relatives, growing up in central IL. I don't get it, but I think I can come to accept it. My one condition is that, in addition to using "y'all" to cover the second person plural, we come up with something to cover the third person singular of unspecified gender. I'm getting tired of saying "he or she" every time I want to discuss a hypothetical or unknown individual.
posted by scottreynen at 11:53 AM on July 10, 2005


I would guess that the current rise in usage of "y'all" has more to do with its Ebonics usage than anything else. This would explain why "y'all" is becoming more popular even though other "southernisms" are not. It would also explain why "y'all" is losing its southernness.

Ebonics is the source for a significant amount of the new slang that we use. Have you ever looked at your own conversational vocabulary (and that of those around you) and notice how much of it is Ebonics?
posted by afroblanca at 11:55 AM on July 10, 2005


Then there's Kinky on the subject:

Remember: Y'all is singular. All y'all is plural. All y'all's is plural possessive.
posted by trip and a half at 11:56 AM on July 10, 2005


Also, much of accent prejudice is class based. A Boston Brahmin accent won't hamper you, but a "pahk the cah in hahvahd yahd, retahd," will get you branded as a galoot as will a "Da Bears," Chicago one, or a "hey, brah," California one. Just saying.
posted by jonmc at 11:56 AM on July 10, 2005


I'm getting tired of saying "he or she" every time

Why not just use "they"?

Ho ho! Just kidding!
posted by jennanemone at 11:57 AM on July 10, 2005


"But pedantry is the ostentatious application of your learning, not necessarily for teaching purposes."

Right you are! I've long misunderstood the word to mean "affecting an ostentatious tone of instruction". I think I must have moved in that direction when I learned Attic Greek--I associate the root more with teaching than learning.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:58 AM on July 10, 2005


You're kidding, right? You know that the first letter in "ye" is a "y" right? It's been there since Proto-Indo-European times, oh, about [looks at watch] 6,000 years ago, give or take fifteen minutes. But you're probably kidding. I hope.

Actually, I just saw red because of the use of "olde" and all the "ye olde barne shoppe" stuff. And ended up looking dumb. But I swear, I know there's a difference between "þe" ("the") and "ye" (second person pronoun).
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:01 PM on July 10, 2005


I think I must have moved in that direction when I learned Attic Greek--I associate the root more with teaching than learning.

So does this count as pedantry or irony?
posted by spiderwire at 12:02 PM on July 10, 2005


"come up with something to cover the third person singular of unspecified gender"

and

"Why not just use 'they'?

Ho ho! Just kidding!"


There is a huge need for this. I'm right on the verge of accepting that usage of "they". Well, I already accept it in that I am not critical of others' use of it. But I'm on the verge of embracing it myself (after having purged it years ago).
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:05 PM on July 10, 2005


Born and raised in the mid-atlantic area and I use y'all all the time. I have no idea why. It's not that common around here and I definitely didn't pick it up from my parents.

It must be my incredibly low IQ.
posted by LeeJay at 12:05 PM on July 10, 2005


Also, I've developed a genteel southern accent by choice.

Poser.
posted by trondant at 12:06 PM on July 10, 2005


pedantry, and eye-rohn-eee.. live together in perfect har-mon-eee

(I still think a thick Yinzer accent is the least intelligent outward trait one may display..)
posted by kcm at 12:07 PM on July 10, 2005


My grandparents were born in Italy and emigrated to a largely Italian-American small town. To this day, their English is broken and loaded with malapropisms ("Time for dinner. Come in da chiken!"). But they're proud Americans and honest, decent people. It's because of them that I realized that anyone who judges people by linguistic quirks is a bigot. This isn't to say those quirks can't be the subject of humor. It's all in how you approach it.
posted by jonmc at 12:09 PM on July 10, 2005


trondant: Now now, there's nothing wrong with a good strategically selected affectation.
posted by spiderwire at 12:10 PM on July 10, 2005


trondant:
Yeah, posing all the way to the bank.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 12:11 PM on July 10, 2005


Screw "y'all", what I want is an inclusive / exclusive distinction in our first person plural pronouns. "We-us-not-we-you" is the shortest way I can think of to say it, and having to explicitly clarify is very rude.

"We're going to the party now!"
"Okay, let me get my party hat"
"Nonono, we're going to the party"
posted by aubilenon at 12:11 PM on July 10, 2005


I actually prefer "y'allses" -- doubly plural, and so more warmly inclusive.
posted by Hobbacocka at 12:12 PM on July 10, 2005


"So does this count as pedantry or irony?"

Both? I didn't mean that to be ostentatious. Many English words, but that one somewhat more than others, became strongly transformed in my head after I learned Greek. Of course I've forgotten it all almost completely. But the root is "child", and so "pedantry" seems to me to have more connotation about how one is treating someone else, than how one is acting. The greek words for "teaching" and related come from the "child" root (which you can see in pediatrics--iatros is "physician"). So, anyway, I was confused. Thanks for the correction.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:12 PM on July 10, 2005


Time for dinner. Come in da chiken!

Wow -- that's not just a malapropism, that's transcendent humor. I need to go laugh for a while. (Nothing against jonmc's relatives, of course.)
posted by spiderwire at 12:13 PM on July 10, 2005


And the possessive: "y'allses's"
posted by Hobbacocka at 12:13 PM on July 10, 2005


Luckily for you, Mayor, there's no one here who will treat you as you would treat others for making the same sort of mistake.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:15 PM on July 10, 2005


It's because of them that I realized that anyone who judges people by linguistic quirks is a bigot.

So if someone says "nigger" when they mean "black gentleman," it's wrong of me to form an opinion based on that?

(and whoah jesus! I am not suggesting that southern people generally talk that way. Just suggesting that a person's language does indeed say something about them).
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:15 PM on July 10, 2005


we [need to] come up with something to cover the third person singular of unspecified gender. I'm getting tired of saying "he or she" every time I want to discuss a hypothetical or unknown individual.

But we have it, and we've had it for centuries: singular they. From the article (because it ties in nicely with this thread):

Note that while singular they is semantically singular, it is syntactically equivalent to plural they; thus, singular they takes third-person plural verb forms. While this may seem odd, it is no different from the use of you, originally a plural pronoun, which today always takes the same verb form whether referring to one person or several. The reflexive and intensive form of plural they is themselves, and some speakers use this form for singular they as well; other speakers, however, use the more singular-seeming themself. Regardless, singular they is used with singular nouns, as in the sentence, "If someone is flying a plane, then they are a pilot."
posted by sbutler at 12:16 PM on July 10, 2005


Luckily for you, Mayor, there's no one here who will treat you as you would treat others for making the same sort of mistake.

You mean "be condescending," right?
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:17 PM on July 10, 2005


I don't mind "y'all" so much, but when I hear people say "axe" when they mean "ask" it's very difficult for me to take them all that seriously...
posted by clevershark at 12:18 PM on July 10, 2005


Ahhh, the South.

Where else can the word "cat" be pronounced in three syllables?
posted by pwedza at 12:18 PM on July 10, 2005


EB: I wasn't the one correcting you, I just found it funny that your explanation of misunderstanding "pedantry" sounded so pedantic.
posted by spiderwire at 12:18 PM on July 10, 2005


Even though I was born and raised in the north midwest, I picked up y'all somewhere along the line and I'm now lost with out it. I live abroad so most of my friends are non native english speakers. Whenever I have to address a group of them I start out by saying something like "where do y'all want to go?," which is only met by blank stares. Then I have to rephrase the question using "all of you" or "you guys" which feels completely unnatural.

English seriously needs a second person plural pronoun and "y'all" is the best choice. We just need to get those Brits on board...
posted by afu at 12:19 PM on July 10, 2005 [1 favorite]


and that etymology was total bullshit, just not in the way that I stupidly rushed to be the first to correct it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:19 PM on July 10, 2005


So if someone says "nigger" when they mean "black gentleman," it's wrong of me to form an opinion based on that?

"nigger" is not a linguistic quirk, it's a deliberate and conscious slur. Considering someone a galoot because they say "Cah" or "hahd" is bigotry, to put it in Bostonian terms, MC.

Wow -- that's not just a malapropism, that's transcendent humor. I need to go laugh for a while. (Nothing against jonmc's relatives, of course.)

Don't sweat it. Both me and my Italian-born mom laughed at it, too. Like I said, it's all in the approach, and quite frankly, I think even the most PC person on the planet would be hard-pressed not to chuckle a bit at that one.

I don't mind "y'all" so much, but when I hear people say "axe" when they mean "ask" it's very difficult for me to take them all that seriously...


my aforementioned master's degree holding uncle (and several other relatives, and many NYC raised freinds) are not above the occasional "axe." Check yaself before ya wreck yaself, my freind.
posted by jonmc at 12:22 PM on July 10, 2005


And no doubt LH will tell us that there's a good linguistic reason "ask" would mutate to "aks". Although, actually, I don't see it. "Ask" seems much easier to say.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:25 PM on July 10, 2005


Hey Bligh. waddafuk is ya prawblem? Can't youse see da pernt we're tryna make? ;)
posted by jonmc at 12:27 PM on July 10, 2005


I lived all over as a child, but spent most of my formative years in Georgia. My accent has an on/off switch which is usually tripped by other Southerners here in New York. Sometimes it comes on and my friends and co-workers look at me as if I'm crazy. Still, even without the accent, there's always y'all.
posted by Captaintripps at 12:30 PM on July 10, 2005


Perhaps nlindstrom likewise downwardly adjusts people's IQs when he notices that their skin is dark in color.

Yankee.
posted by waldo at 12:31 PM on July 10, 2005


If someone calls me a "fuckwit" when they mean "erudite white fellow", it's wrong of me to form an opinion based on that?
posted by 4easypayments at 12:32 PM on July 10, 2005


Etherial Bligh: And no doubt LH will tell us that there's a good linguistic reason "ask" would mutate to "aks". Although, actually, I don't see it. "Ask" seems much easier to say.

Well, "aks" is further back in the mouth than "ask" so it might be part of an overall linguistic shift.

I also admit that I'm willing to give other people more slack for their speech because I'm a recovered stutterer and have more than my own share of quirks wrapping my tounge around some words.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:34 PM on July 10, 2005


I much prefer the Hiberno-English plural 'yous'.

So, I reckon yous are all wrong.
posted by funambulist at 12:40 PM on July 10, 2005


"[R]egional speech quirks are a refreshing blast of humanity in an increasingly homogenized world."

Me too.

"I'm getting tired of saying "he or she" every time I want to discuss a hypothetical or unknown individual."

I like "it".
posted by davy at 12:40 PM on July 10, 2005


As an educated gentleman hailing from the south with relatives and indeed a spouse hailing from the New England territories, I'd just like to heartily tell nlindstrom to fuck off. Bigotry is not intellectual street cred.

Y'all come back now, y'hear?
posted by cavalier at 12:41 PM on July 10, 2005


Me too, KJS. Among other difficulties as a pre-adolescent I suffered from a "slushy S" and had to leave class to go to school mandated speexch therapy for something I didn't even notice and that none of my freinds ever mentioned. My echophenomena was a different story.
posted by jonmc at 12:42 PM on July 10, 2005


Why is it becoming so popular, when other . . . southernisms show no such acceptance?

It's been said to death, but it's the most attractive second-person plural. (Youse? You guys?) It's quite helpful when talking to one person about both that person and a group they belong to.

"You all" is completely acceptable, and anyone who disagrees is an assjack. I grew up in Louisville, and (though y'awl was of course most prevalent) there were definitely uses of "you all," most commonly with the stress on the "all" as in "c'mon, you *all*" spoken exasperatingly. Rare, but acceptable.

Also, I think it was generally accepted that y'awl stood for "you all," meaning plural. (Admittedly, Louisville is more Midwest than South, though I've never heard y'awl as a singular in GA, LA, TN, VA either. Maybe FL, but that's FL.)
posted by mrgrimm at 12:44 PM on July 10, 2005


But we have it, and we've had it for centuries: singular they.

That will be useful for when people correct me for using it despite understanding me, but that doesn't really solve the problem of actual confusion. "Y'all" works to distinguish the second person plural from the singular "you." Maybe I should just start saying "they" and "th'all."

I like "it".

I like to emphasize the difference between people and objects. Maybe that's just me, as I'm vegetarian and get tired of being associated with PETA and their "animals are people too" ideologies.

"We-us-not-we-you" is the shortest way I can think of to say it, and having to explicitly clarify is very rude.

How about "They and I"? That even removes the rudeness by making it sounds like the "not-you" part is something "they" decided.
posted by scottreynen at 12:45 PM on July 10, 2005


aubilenon: what I want is an inclusive / exclusive distinction in our first person plural pronouns

That's exactly what I was talking about with the Pittsburgh "Uons" (I made up that spelling.)
It means us-ones as opposed to you-ones.
You need to move closer to Pittsburgh.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:47 PM on July 10, 2005


ot

i had speech classes in 2nd grade, where they pulled me out of homeroom with the other malspeakers. i guess it was the opposite of a lisp. mouth was sometimes pronounced "mouse." is that a "slushy s"?

/ot
posted by mrgrimm at 12:47 PM on July 10, 2005


Kinda. I woud say "yes" as "yeshhh." I didn't hear it. Along with being dosed with Ritalin for my hyperactivity (this was the late 70's before they started sprinkling it on the breakfast cereal), it fed my inferiority complex and distrust of authority.
posted by jonmc at 12:51 PM on July 10, 2005


Growing up, I think I was exposed to tons of phony southern accents on tv and in movies. For me, the archetypal experience of this is turning on my tv set and hearing Archie Bunker talking with a mouthful of molasses - I think the first time I heard him doing that, the question "What in the hell is wrong with him?" popped into my head. Just do it well if you're going to do it.

Time for dinner. Come in da chiken!

Oh, it's *that* kind of party?
posted by trondant at 12:56 PM on July 10, 2005


"As an educated gentleman hailing from the south with relatives and indeed a spouse hailing from the New England territories, I'd just like to heartily tell nlindstrom to fuck off. Bigotry is not intellectual street cred."

*claps*
posted by invitapriore at 1:03 PM on July 10, 2005


For me, the archetypal experience of this is turning on my tv set and hearing Archie Bunker talking with a mouthful of molasses - I think the first time I heard him doing that, the question "What in the hell is wrong with him?" popped into my head. Just do it well if you're going to do it.

Archie Bunker was not trying to speak southern, that was a Queens accent, and he did it quite well, actually.
posted by jonmc at 1:04 PM on July 10, 2005


friends who use 'aks' instead of 'ask'--those i've discussed it with--have a hard time changing the pronunciation...i guess anything works with practice, but when they try it comes out slowly and awkwardly, and kind of creates a distraction in the conversation...

i grew up in georgia, and never thought of y'all as anything but plural...i remember when eastwood's daughter said it in 'midnight in the garden of good and evil', she said it to another character in the singular, and it really stood out as wrong...i couldn't believe nobody on location could point it out...perhaps that's a regional rule as well..

i'm sure there are linguistic things that get on my nerves..i just can't think of what they are...but i would hope i don't think less of someone because of them...it could be i'm kind of desensitized to it, since my partner (who has a southern accent at times) often uses phrases like 'let's touch bases' and 'i can't phantom' (instead of fathom), which used to drive me up a wall, but i don't correct him...though i'll announce it here on metafilter...hahaha

and i'll admit i have at times found a new york accent on a man to be quite sexy.
posted by troybob at 1:05 PM on July 10, 2005


"I'm getting tired of saying "he or she" every time I want to discuss a hypothetical or unknown individual."

I've appropriated 'one' for this purpose. It is sort of awkward to say/write but seems most correct IMO.
posted by Fezboy! at 1:09 PM on July 10, 2005


Remember: Y'all is singular. All y'all is plural. All y'all's is plural possessive.

All y'all's base is belong to us.
posted by goodglovin77 at 1:12 PM on July 10, 2005


and i'll admit i have at times found a new york accent on a man to be quite sexy.

So, how youse doin', muddafukka?

sorry, couldn't resist
posted by jonmc at 1:12 PM on July 10, 2005


In Pittsburgh we had "youns", pronounced something like yewns, short for "you ones." We also had "uons", short for "us ones." So it goes like this: "youns goin dawn there? Uons stayin here."

Really? I go to school in Pittsburgh, and I've never heard that. People around here say "yinz" and are referred to as "yinzers."
posted by ludwig_van at 1:19 PM on July 10, 2005


hehe...actually, accents don't work so well for me in print (though i'm sure in person it's charming!)...i find i really distracting when authors do it...anybody know of any authors who do that well?

accents are awesome...i like to hear lars von trier talk...and kathleen turner has a beautiful one, though i don't know if anyone has pinned down exactly what it is...
posted by troybob at 1:20 PM on July 10, 2005


The truth is much more sinister:



Story
posted by Mick at 1:21 PM on July 10, 2005


hehe...actually, accents don't work so well for me in print (though i'm sure in person it's charming!)

sadly, troybob, I do not possess a Noo Yawk accent. This is what I actually sound like. Italy by way of Vermont mom canceled out Queens Irish Dad somehow.
posted by jonmc at 1:24 PM on July 10, 2005


And nlindstrom was all like, shaaaaa, and y'all was like, whatever.
posted by billder at 1:29 PM on July 10, 2005


"Archie Bunker was not trying to speak southern, that was a Queens accent, and he did it quite well, actually."

Huh. From trondant's comment, I was thinking, "Did Archie Bunker imitate southern speech a lot?? I don't remember that." But I recognized his as a New York accent and I'm as personally unfamiliar with those accents as anyone. (Well, in high school my senior year a kid showed up because his mom was going to the university. He reminded everyone of Stallone. He was enormously muscleman huge and had that New York Italian accent. Everybody loved him. Me and my pals argued with him, though, about rock music. We were the Van Halen brigade, to the point of painting the logo on the town's water tower. This guy hated Van Halen and said that Zeppelin was the be-all-and-end-all of rock music. We thought Zep was okay, but that his fanatacism must have been an east coast thing. Which was stupid of us, really.)

"...remember when eastwood's daughter said it in 'midnight in the garden of good and evil', she said it to another character in the singular, and it really stood out as wrong...i couldn't believe nobody on location could point it out"

I'm with you. Y'all as unambiguously singular sounds extremely wrong to my ears. Having lived in Austin for eight years, I'd come across that Kinky Friedman quote before, and it has always baffled me. I didn't notice anyone using y'all as singular in Austin--although most people in Austin don't have the Texas accent. But I know someone right from the heart of the hill country--I mean, her name is Dixie--and she didn't exhibit that usage.

Speaking of her, though, one thing I noticed and never got used to was her Canadian/Upper-Midwest "ou" in the middle of her strong Texas drawl. It's not that she ever lived up there and so I've wondered if that's not a microregionalism for central Texas? Having been married to a Torontoan, I easily recognize that "ou" and can manage it myself.

"accents are awesome...i like to hear lars von trier talk...and kathleen turner has a beautiful one"

I can't hear her accent in my head at the moment. But that made me think of Katherine Hepburn and that northeast upper-class accent. That's disapearing or even already gone, isn't it?

Which also brings to mind something I've been thinking about lately: what the heck is it that's so identifiable about 40s era American, particularly newsreels announcers and the like? Even actors from that period talk quite a bit the same way (not as pronounced). Was that the "standard" supposedly neutral American accent at the time?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:33 PM on July 10, 2005


Cool post, bro; maybe you should go back to slashdot.

after this thread, slashdot can tell 'em (that's southern for "tell them" in case y'all can't tell) to go back to meta.
posted by 3.2.3 at 1:34 PM on July 10, 2005


By the way, inspired by Curley I found that the X11 program xvkbd includes a "þ" (and a "Þ") in its Latin-1 and Icelandic layouts, but has an "ð" (and an "Ð") only for the Icelandic. Oddly enough I find neither letter in the Danish and Norwegian ones. Also, I now know that there is such a thing as a capital "thorn"; it hadn't occured to me before.

Metafilter is good for my brain.

Oddly though I couldn't get xvkbd to work under Blackbox; I had to restart into KDE. So this post now includes two tacit suggestions for bored programmers.

And before I forget, I see that (at least if one writer's understanding of Old Norse , which I'm assuming to be similar to former English because I don't want to spend all day Googling), I pronounce "the" sometimes with a þ and sometimes with an ð depending on where in a sentence the "the" falls. Is that just me or have I stumbled on something?

In closing, this thread shows that "y'all" often functions as a Southron shibboleth, albeit a fairly weak weak one. A stronger shibboleth is the local pronunciation of "Louisville", which of course pertains to this thread not at all.
posted by davy at 1:38 PM on July 10, 2005


people move?
posted by muppetboy at 1:39 PM on July 10, 2005


He reminded everyone of Stallone.

Stallone had a Bronx accent, even though he was brought up in Hell's Kitchen. In NYC, very borough has a distinct accent. The classic Brooklyn accent would be Jackie Gleason on the Honeymooners, Queens the nasality of Fran Drescher or Archie Bunker's gutturalisms. Manhattan accents echo what you'd hear on Seinfeld.

The Zep thing was probably an anti-disco thing. Zep came to represent rock virtues against disco to a lot of working-class east coasters.
posted by jonmc at 1:41 PM on July 10, 2005


Muppetbox, bowels move but people relocate.
posted by davy at 1:45 PM on July 10, 2005


A weird aside about accents: I was watching a CourtTV documetary about a Japanese bank robber in Boston, and I heard a voice over in the typical "Pahk ya cah," accent. I was surprised when they showed the cop talking and he was Asian. But It's the accent he grew up around, so it's not suprising it became his own.
posted by jonmc at 1:48 PM on July 10, 2005


I've washed away my Southern accent with the Drano of self esteem.

I'd rather die than use "ya'll."

"Ya'll," despite the cries of "I done use it ever'day" is an acceptance and promulgation of ignorance.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 1:51 PM on July 10, 2005


As far as I know, I've only said "y'all" once unintentialy. It actualy shocked me to hear me saying it.

And heres the thing, I meant it as a singular "you". In texas "y'all" can be singular as well as plural, just like "you". I was talking about my friend as a spesific individual, and I'd been refered to as "y'all" many times as an individual and not as part of a group.

This was in Mosquite (a suburb of dallas).
posted by delmoi at 1:51 PM on July 10, 2005


I've washed away my Southern accent with the Drano of self esteem.

or self-loathing.
posted by jonmc at 1:52 PM on July 10, 2005


I reckon y'all are no smarter than the rest of us but that y'all like to think you are. Elitists.
posted by swlabr at 1:52 PM on July 10, 2005


ludwig_van: Really? I go to school in Pittsburgh, and I've never heard that. People around here say "yinz" and are referred to as "yinzers."

Yeah, my made-up spelling is weak. Pittsburgh accents are really hard to imitate. It's somewhere between "yinz," "yonz," and "yunz." Its that special ingredient in Dennis Leary.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:53 PM on July 10, 2005


Its that special ingredient in Dennis Leary.

Denis Leary is from Worcester, Mass. Or as the locals say "Woo-stah."
posted by jonmc at 1:56 PM on July 10, 2005


I think Kinky is trolling, or something. Anyway, all y'all is used to refer to a larger group than just y'all. The distinction is much like the distinction in Spanish between "allí" and "allá"—the former means "there", but the latter means "way over there." They're both distinction that don't exist in Standard American English as a single word (there's no way "all y'all" is standard).
posted by grouse at 2:10 PM on July 10, 2005


kcm: thanks for that link! I always wondered why my old house had a toilet placed quite randomly middle of the basement..
posted by rajbot at 2:12 PM on July 10, 2005


From trondant's comment, I was thinking, "Did Archie Bunker imitate southern speech a lot??"

Yep. Well, fine, not Archie, but Carroll O'Connor. He played a southern sheriff for years on tv in In the Heat of the Night, which I assume is adapted from the Sidney Poitier movie.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:16 PM on July 10, 2005


Why not just use "they"?
Ho ho! Just kidding!


As has been pointed out by others, "they" is a perfectly good neutral third singular, and has been for centuries (more here).

And no doubt LH will tell us that there's a good linguistic reason "ask" would mutate to "aks".

Actually, it was the other way around. The OED:
Acsian, axian, survived in ax, down to nearly 1600 the regular literary form, and still used everywhere in midl. and south. dialects, though supplanted in standard English by ask...
So all y'all who go around deploring linguistic change should be saying "I axed him"; the knowledge that you're using the historic and therefore correct form should more than compensate you for snickers and raised eyebrows.

davy: Gordon's Introduction to Old Norse says "þ in the oldest Icelandic manuscripts was used both for the voiceless sound of th in English thin and the voiced sound in then. About 1225 ð was introduced, and gradually þ came to be used only initially, and ð in other positions. þ then represented only the voiceless sound, while ð.. was voiced, as in faðir, við." (Incidentally, your link reverses "voiced" and "voiceless.") In Old English they were used more or less interchangeably, though modern editions sometimes introduce regularity, either by using one initially or using þ everywhere.

On preview: The Jesse Helms, go stand in the corner with nlindstrom.
posted by languagehat at 2:18 PM on July 10, 2005


Archie Bunker was not trying to speak southern

i figured trondant was referring to later on, when carroll o'connor was in 'heat of the night' as a police chief in mississipi...

cool jonmc...if i had a recording of my voice to post, it would show zero trace of my southern upbringing...i talk too fast to have the accent...
posted by troybob at 2:22 PM on July 10, 2005


Yep. Well, fine, not Archie, but Carroll O'Connor. He played a southern sheriff for years on tv in In the Heat of the Night, which I assume is adapted from the Sidney Poitier movie.

Fair enough. But Carrol was born in the Bronx and raised in Queens, so the accent he used for Archie was an exaggeration of his own.
posted by jonmc at 2:22 PM on July 10, 2005


And before I forget, I see that (at least if one writer's understanding of Old Norse , which I'm assuming to be similar to former English because I don't want to spend all day Googling), I pronounce "the" sometimes with a þ and sometimes with an ð depending on where in a sentence the "the" falls. Is that just me or have I stumbled on something?

What you are hearing are "voiced" and "unvoiced" english "th" sounds. Some speakers of early germanic languages (among others) made a distinction between the sound that begins, say, "think" (þ) and sound that begins words like "those" (ð). The difference is that the former is made purely with your mouth and air movement, and the latter involves vibrating vocal cords as well.

And there's a general rule in english that dictates whether "the" will start with a voiced or unvoiced sound. But I can't remember what it is and it's too hot to work it out for myself.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:26 PM on July 10, 2005


I know my language quite well, and take great pleasure in occasionally combusticating new flavors of linguististification amidst otherwise stunningly erudite book larnin' type hifaluticisms. I trust it eventually seeps through that my glossolalia is in uberrima fides - a playful rearrangement of a baroque architecture - but like, I sorta feel bad for those imprisoned in one controlling mode of dialect. But not near so much I resent those crotchwaffles that would fain standardize mine utterance - arount thee!
posted by 31d1 at 2:32 PM on July 10, 2005


Vous êtes tous des sauvages.
posted by furtive at 2:34 PM on July 10, 2005


jonmc: Denis Leary is from Worcester, Mass.

Denis Leary: "After I graduated from college, one of my first jobs was as an ice cream scoop at a Village Dairy in Pittsburgh".
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:36 PM on July 10, 2005


Best linguistic confusion ever:

The day after the blackout in NYC, I was sitting in a bar in Astoria. To one side of me was this Irishman named Fergus. On the other side was this extremely drunk guy with a Queens accent named Pau with what looked like a bad Eminem style blonde dye-jobl. Paul drunkenly babbled but he kept buying drinks, so we didn't complain. When Paul got up to take a leak, fergus leaned towards me.

"Paul's a good guy, but he's gota touch of the Albanian about him"

I though for a minute " You mean 'albino?'"

"That's the stuff."

Of course this was the same bar where a co-drinker of mine caught a cockroach with his his shot glass and asked the Armagh-born barmaid what we got for that.

"You get to keep the glass." she said.

Denis Leary: "After I graduated from college, one of my first jobs was as an ice cream scoop at a Village Dairy in Pittsburgh".

That's Dennis Miller who did grow up in Pittsburgh. You're confusing your Dennises, man.
posted by jonmc at 2:41 PM on July 10, 2005


jonmc: I was watching a CourtTV documetary about a Japanese bank robber in Boston, and I heard a voice over in the typical "Pahk ya cah," accent. I was surprised when they showed the cop talking and he was Asian. But It's the accent he grew up around, so it's not suprising it became his own.

Yeah, I think that's somewhat interesting. I have Asian-American colleagues at my University who find themselves treated as ESL students because they are outnumbered 3-1 by students from Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:45 PM on July 10, 2005


Ahem. MEsquite, not MOsquite, delmoi.

I grew up in that area, and cannot recall anyone using y'all as a singular--if they had, I would have assumed that they were using it incorrectly. But I wasn't actually IN Mesquite, so maybe it was town-specific.

It was a long time before I knew that not everyone said "fixin' to." It's just so handy! "I'm about to" just doesn't flow the same way, sadly. Nor does fixin' work if you put the "g" back in.

I have been permanently converted to saying "soda" rather than "coke" for all soft drinks though.
posted by emjaybee at 2:49 PM on July 10, 2005


KJS, I had a smilar experience in downtown Manhattan when I walked past a place called "the Tibetan Store" I sawa guy in "traditional" garb walk outside and when he caught my eye, he said in fluent Brooklynese "how you doin'?" I had a Chinese-American freind named Odelia in college, but she had grown up in Bay Ridge so she talked like an extra from saturday Night Fever and sprayed her hair as high as an any Brooklyn guidette. Why? Because that's who she was, despite anybody's suppositions.
posted by jonmc at 2:50 PM on July 10, 2005


> English seriously needs a second person plural
> pronoun and "y'all" is the best choice.

I'll be sticking with yiz, I'm afraid. As in:

"Yiz are all fullacrap."

(A Liverpudlian contraction of the Irish 'youse', presumably'.)

As to why 'y'all' is growing in popularity, it can only be due to forty years of Beverly Hillbillies re-runs.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:52 PM on July 10, 2005


But not near so much I resent those crotchwaffles that would fain standardize mine utterance - arount thee!

See, with all your talk about combusticating new flavors of linguististification you've successfully immunized yourself against my pointing out that it should be "aroint thee"; you'll just say "I was having fun with the language!" Hmph.
posted by languagehat at 2:53 PM on July 10, 2005


Well, now that we're on to random language hijinks, I still laugh about the time I was in a Star Market in Boston and a Japanese guy who spoke no English came in with some illegible directions on a scrap of paper seeking help. The security guy took him over to a Chinese guy standing in line and said, here, you help him. The Chinese guy explained that they spoke different languages, but the security guy wasn't having it. "Go ahead, just try. Say something to him, see if it works. I bet it will"
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:53 PM on July 10, 2005


I don't know why anyone thinks we need a plural you. You is already plural, much like the french "vous". What we need is a singular. :)

I've never used y'all and I've never actually felt a need for it either. I mean, if someone says My friends and I are going out, why would I need to acknowledge the plural? Why would it seem wrong to just say, Oh yeah? Where are you going? I know it's plural. The other person clearly knows it's plural. Why do I need to underscore it?

But there aren't many y'all users in Ontario, in my experience.
posted by Hildegarde at 2:56 PM on July 10, 2005


with regards to the asian-american with the bahstan accent, ms. kcm is from hong kong and was there until 14 or so. at some indeterminate point in her undergrad career, after spending all her years in the US in MI, she was pegged out of the blue in NRT for having a Michigan accent of all things.

so, not only is it possible to adopt a completely foreign accent - most of her HK friends have british accents, even after spending time here, although she does have her own cute speech rhythms, Michigan is easily picked out halfway around the globe. Dee-troy-it 4 LyF.
posted by kcm at 2:57 PM on July 10, 2005


languagehat: I was convinced by years of high school English that the use of "they" as a singular pronoun was improper, despite its frequent usage; is this not true, or is it one of those things that's so ubiquitous as to not be considered wrong anymore?
posted by invitapriore at 3:00 PM on July 10, 2005


there is at least a place in hell
for this and other doggerel.
posted by MrLint at 3:01 PM on July 10, 2005


On the ashamed of ethnic accents thread, I remember onetime calling my house from work, when my grandparents were visiting, and when I realized that my co-workers could overhear, I substituted "grandma" for "nonna."

One co-worker who was also Italian-American said "Did you say 'mommy, then grandma?'"

"No, I said 'nonna'"

"I say the same thing," he said with a smile.

Minor but I remember my Jewish college girlfreind having the same mixed emotions over clling her grandparents 'Bubbe' & 'Zadie." Now I feel nothing but pride about it.
posted by jonmc at 3:02 PM on July 10, 2005


I'm not from the South, but it's so damn useful that I use y'all all the damn time. Usually, it's in the form of "lookit, y'all," but it has other uses.

Reckon's a good word, except that it's two syllables instead of just one ("I reckon" vs. "I think").

There are many times where I drop words and syllables among my very well-educated and well-employed friends, and they do likewise. ("Where y'all going? Whatchu up to? Where ya goin'?") These friends tend to be in Boston, Chicago or New York. Y'all's just an example of that.

By the way, the use of "be" in place of many "be verbs" isn't just in the 'hood; it's a southern thing as well. The similarities in grammatical structure between street and south are fascinating.
posted by sachinag at 3:06 PM on July 10, 2005


So all y'all who go around deploring linguistic change should be saying "I axed him"; the knowledge that you're using the historic and therefore correct form should more than compensate you for snickers and raised eyebrows.

Snap!
posted by grouse at 3:07 PM on July 10, 2005


Languagehat, that was delicately done! And whenever these discussions happen on dialect and idiom, I'm always pleased, sensing the friendly, albeit looming, bulk of S. Johnson somewhere near. Instant chophouse warmth and wit.

But it is also interesting how quickly people's emotions are fully engaged in these issues; clearly what we learn early, acquire later, or disavow with prejudice remains capable of causing the quick flare of indignation — or ready identification.

Full admission: I'm a Southerner, currently residing in Georgia after having dwelt all over the US and Europe, and enjoy using y'all with relish. And a side of grits.
posted by Haruspex at 3:23 PM on July 10, 2005


kcm writes "with regards to the asian-american with the bahstan accent, ms. kcm is from hong kong and was there until 14 or so.

Is the writing in third person about yourself an affectation, or as a result of your linguistic upbringing?
posted by benzo8 at 3:30 PM on July 10, 2005


Alternatively, if I had read properly before posting - "ms</em kcm", I'd probably have realised you were talking about your partner and I'd feel less of a tool right now...

Who was that short-lived guy we had around a few months back who spoke of himself in the third person, anyhow?
posted by benzo8 at 3:32 PM on July 10, 2005


no problem. it's shorter than 'my girlfriend'. I tend to refer to myself in the 2nd person, anyway.. it gets confusing quickly.
posted by kcm at 3:46 PM on July 10, 2005


I'm completely fascinated by this discussion. Partly because I thought people had stopped arguing about which English pronounciation/form/dialect is the 'correct' one ages ago (well, the Brits at least), partly because I'm so crap at telling American accents as I'm not familiar enough with the differences there. I can just about tell a general Southern accent and an Italian American accent and Hispanic accents but other than that, y'all sound American to me. I also cannot tell non-French speaking Canadians from Americans. (Is it even possible?)
posted by funambulist at 4:04 PM on July 10, 2005


I'm a native Texan who relocated to California years ago. I worked hard to rid myself of the accent because people assume that talk slowly= think slowly. However, I absolutely refuse to abandon my y'all. In fact, it has spread rapidly amongst my racially and ethnically diverse circle of friends. Oh, I WILL convert the world one person at a time.
posted by kamikazegopher at 4:12 PM on July 10, 2005


funambulist wins.
posted by 3.2.3 at 4:22 PM on July 10, 2005


I'm going to defend nlindstrom.

I'm from Kansas, and in Kansas, if you hear someone say 'y'all' the chances are almost 100% that you are talking to someone who is:

a) minimally educated
b) as dumb as a fucking stump to begin with
c) a religious right-wing nut job

Sure, there are people in Kansas who say y'all but don't fit into any of the above categories. They are pretentious assholes who are using the word either to make a point in an argument like this one, or they are on some fantasy trip about getting back to their roots, and their use of y'all always comes off as affected.

"But bingo," you may say, "you're not in Kansas anymore."

True, I'm not (I'm in NYC). And I've also traveled pretty extensively. This argument makes me think of those ridiculous cowboy boots and belt buckles sold in the Time-Warner center (there is a whole shop dedicated to such things)...they may, in some postmodern way, seem cute or chic to some people who have not often had the misfortune of dealing with the sort of people who would habitually wear such things without a thought of irony.

As for the self-described Southern Gentlemen...that phrase itself makes me wince more than the use of "y'all." I can't hear it without thinking of cotton plantations and snide smiles...and setting aside the whole Southern thing, calling oneself a gentleman is a rather un-gentlemanly thing to do, and it comes off as affected, pretentious, and unduly conceited.

No doubt this comment will anger many people, and believe it or not, I'm not trying to bait anyone. But this is how I feel, and nlindstrom and I are not exactly alone in this, our representation in this thread to the contrary. When I hear y'all in a conversation, I immediately think to myself, Talking to this person is most likely a waste of my time. And the truth is that such people, by and large, would rather not spend time with a Johnson County kid like myself either. In this regard, the linguistic cues on both sides are working exactly as they should.
posted by bingo at 4:26 PM on July 10, 2005


When I hear y'all in a conversation, I immediately think to myself, Talking to this person is most likely a waste of my time.

bingo, you're a nice guy and all, but that statement reveals more about your own prejudices than about the people you're writing off.
posted by jonmc at 4:34 PM on July 10, 2005


I also cannot tell non-French speaking Canadians from Americans. (Is it even possible?)

I can't tell the Irish from the English. (Is it even possible?)

Argh, don't get us started.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:43 PM on July 10, 2005


jonmc: You're confusing your Dennises, man.

Sad but true, ever since my microstroke.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:04 PM on July 10, 2005


Don't be so quick to dismiss bingo -- he's on to something. Ya'll is not widely used in KS, and there are definitely people here who are guilty of self-consciously exaggerating their dialects or further countrifying their speech for dishonest reasons. It's a delicate thing. There are some folks where you can tell that the accent and slang are genuine; I'd put my grandma in that camp, and she's a far stretch from stupid. She doesn't say ya'll, because like I said, rural KS folks generally don't, but she certainly sounds country. Personally, I find her accent and regional slang charming and people who would think her dumb because of it are themselves dumb as stumpfuckers (to borrow an Ozark phrase I quite like).

But then there's a car salesman/local politician form, the "Hey bo, I'm jes a reglar guy" stuff, and I tend to reach for my wallet and my ass when I hear it. It's a variant on what troybob said earlier: the speaker is indicating "I talk country, and country people are more trustworthy than city types, so you should implicitly believe all the stuff I'm trying to sell you." I thnk that's part of what bingo's getting at. Well, I know better, and so should, ahem, ya'll.

Then there's another sort, stranger still: the nostalgia form, when people relocate to a different part of the country and suddenly exaggerate their accent and regional speech because they miss home, or like the uniqueness it marks them with. That's where bingo and I disagree a bit -- I don't think it's necessarily pretention. That is to say, it's not exactly dishonest, but it's not really who they are. It's a sort of psychic home defense system against homesickness and uprootedness.

It's all dependent on context. I don't automatically admire a country or ethnic accent as authentic. It's like anything else: it all depends on the intent of the speaker. If you tend to make a blanket set of assumptions everytime someone uses ya'll, you're probably not listening closely enough.
posted by melissa may at 5:06 PM on July 10, 2005


jonmc, sorry to predate you, and too long gone in this thread, but "reckon" predates you by about, jesus, 25 years when "chinny reckon" was used by countless UK kids when denying the probability of another kid's spurious story. Came with: the stroking of the chin, Jimmy Hill stylee.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 5:11 PM on July 10, 2005


I'm sure, dude, but I've always associated "reckon" with southern freinds who've used it, and it just sounds great so I'd like to see it revived.
posted by jonmc at 5:22 PM on July 10, 2005


I have a really hard time taking people that wear certain kinds of hat seriously. While not a sure-fire indicator of mental status they definitely raise a red flag. For as we all known, ones choice of clothes, vernacular, or bumper sticker can be as clearly communicative as body language.

Of course, one must be careful to determine whether the irony layer count (if one exists) is odd or even.
posted by 31d1 at 5:26 PM on July 10, 2005


even though it is too long gone in the thread, urbanwhaleshark brought it up, so I just want to say that I frequently use "reckon". Yes, it gets me odd looks from people who don't know me very well; people who do know me have come to realize that my active vocabulary runs the gamut from erudite to back-country illiterate, and so have come to accept hearing the word.

I also have been known to say "y'all". Once, in a linguistics class in England, the lecturer was commenting on the use of "y'all" and even the odd, remarkable pluralization of an already plural, "y'all all". As the token visiting American from a Southern university, I had to take issue with this spurious claim of his, on the grounds that I am about 98.7% positive that no such form "y'all all" exists, and in fact what he meant was "all y'all", which flows mellifluously from the tongue (and which I have also been known to say on occasion). To my irritation he doggedgly stuck with his "y'all all" crap, no doubt to the detriment of countless undergrads.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 5:35 PM on July 10, 2005


For as we all known, ones choice of clothes, vernacular, or bumper sticker can be as clearly communicative as body language.

That's a little too close toa bigot's self-justification. After all those black kids choose to wear those baggy pants and skullcaps and that's why it's not racist if lady's clutch their purses when they're near them.

Yes, clothes and speech are indicators of social class and regional origin. Is that an excuse to judge someones mental ability or moral fiber?

No. Nice try, though.
posted by jonmc at 5:36 PM on July 10, 2005


Here in western NC, you'ins (pronounced yuns) is a more countrified y'all. I've even heard y'allsins.
posted by moonbird at 5:44 PM on July 10, 2005


languagehat: I was convinced by years of high school English that the use of "they" as a singular pronoun was improper, despite its frequent usage; is this not true, or is it one of those things that's so ubiquitous as to not be considered wrong anymore?

It depends what you mean by "true." It was always perfectly good English, if by that you mean (as linguists do) what native speakers naturally say, but it has been considered "improper" or "wrong" because, you know, "they is plural." This is an objection similar to the one that claims "I don't see nothing" can't be good English because "a double negative is a positive." These are idiotic ideas, but you can't blame the people who spout them, because hardly anyone is taught the first thing about language from a scientific point of view. As I said above, I expect singular they to be accepted in a few decades, but at present I imagine high school English teachers are still telling their students it's "improper."

But this is how I feel, and nlindstrom and I are not exactly alone in this, our representation in this thread to the contrary.

Why no, you're not, any more than George Bush is alone in his assumption that Iraq had something to do with 9/11. Hardly any belief is so offensive, illogical, or just plain wrong that there aren't hordes of people who share it. Congratulations, nlindstrom! You'll never walk alone!

If you tend to make a blanket set of assumptions everytime someone uses ya'll, you're probably not listening closely enough.

Right. So why are you not dismissing bingo, again?
posted by languagehat at 5:47 PM on July 10, 2005


it's amazing to me that such a little word could be so controversial

When I hear y'all in a conversation,

you reach for your gun? diploma? monocle?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:50 PM on July 10, 2005


I don't know that I can describe it but some southern women use y'all as a singular in a coquettish way - "But y'all are so big and strong..."
posted by Carbolic at 5:52 PM on July 10, 2005


Today on MeFi's front page we have Karl Rove, London terror attacks, and MSG. And the post with the most comments is this one. Amazing.
posted by grouse at 5:54 PM on July 10, 2005


The cowboy hat thing has been an affectation among more sectors than just the urban northeastern one, and for a very long time. Country music, for instance, was just country music, and not "country and western" music until Gene Autry's popularity. And then country people started wearing cowboy hats. To this day, a ten gallon hat is a sign of being "country," among fans and singers alike. But it's an affectation. Southern people--of the sort at whom country music was typically aimed--generally did not wear ten gallon hats in daily life. The cowboy hat thing was fashion thing, which after some decades has become a matter of style and genre (and connected quote-unquote lifestyle) tradition.
posted by raysmj at 5:54 PM on July 10, 2005


Roy Blount Jr. on the subject (discussing what sounds like a silly book by Maureen Duffin-Ward):
She is not the first non-Southerner to insist that Southerners may call a single person 'y'all,' but to my knowledge she is the first to declare categorically, in the face of everyday evidence and all philological authority, that it is always a single person we so address. But she isn't one to brook elucidation. With regard to the singularity of 'y'all,' she writes: 'Southerners will beg to differ here. They insist that even though they use it to address one person, it implies plurality.'

Something -- either second-person-plural envy or hyperjocularity -- has affected Duffin-Ward's ear. People in the South do indeed sometimes seem to be addressing a single person as 'y'all.' For instance, a restaurant patron might ask a waiter, 'What y'all got for dessert tonight?' In that case 'y'all' refers collectively to the folks who run the restaurant. No doubt the implication of plurality is hard for someone who didn't grow up with it to discern. It may even be that Duffin-Ward has heard a native speaker, in real life, violate deep-structure idiom by calling a single person 'y'all.' That would be arguable grounds for saying that 'y'all' is singular on occasion. But how can she have missed daily instances of people unmistakably addressing two or more people as 'y'all'? When a parent calls out to three kids, 'Y'all get in here out of the rain,' does she think only one child is being summoned? ('All y'all' is of course an extended plural: 'Y'all listen up! I mean all y'all.' Often it is pronounced 'Aw yaw.')
The rest of the review is well worth reading as well (and jonmc, I think you in particular will enjoy it).

grouse: If you don't find this worthy of discussion, there are many other threads awaiting your perusal.
posted by languagehat at 6:06 PM on July 10, 2005


grouse: the most comments is this one

Talkers talking about talking.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:06 PM on July 10, 2005


I wonder, would the phrase have helped Ross Perot?

Probably not.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:13 PM on July 10, 2005


Well, I came to this thread quite late, but a couple of thoughts

1 Grew up in Louisville, lived in Lexington for seven years, have lived in Detroit area for the last four years. I have lost my 'y'all' I'm afraid. The one thing I haven't lost and likely couldn't change is the pronunciation of my hometown - Lulvul. Say it like Marlon Brandon, basically. I have known exactly ONE native who said Loo-ee-vil. SOME (few) folks say it Loo-uh-vul. But your REAL native says Lulvul (my Irish family has been there since the middle 1800s at least, but I'm kidding about 'real').

2 Florence Mall to Florence Y'all is a funny story.

3 I have not heard, in Kentucky, Y'all as singular. I have heard permutations of y'all, such as all y'all (which is just emphasis) from someone who had come from Savannah. Perhaps that explains the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil usage. Georgia is radically different from most Kentucky accents (there are three to my ear). My northeastern Kentucky relatives turn short a's into long i's, so R-A-T sounds quite like R-I-G-H-T. When I was in Georgia this was reversed, so I-C-E sounded just like A-S-S. This caused me to turn bright red in McDonald's when I was a teenager...

Great thread!
posted by Slothrop at 6:14 PM on July 10, 2005


Languagehat, I mentioned in the other thread my arm chair theorizing (partly from half-remembered articles) about the influence of Gaelic and older British accents on Southern speech. Could you recommend any layperson articles that explore that, if such a connection exists?
posted by Slothrop at 6:17 PM on July 10, 2005


languagehat: If you don't find this worthy of discussion, there are many other threads awaiting your perusal.

Well obviously not, since this will be my sixth comment in this thread. I just think it's interesting that this has really hit a nerve amongst Mefites. This is what has captured their (and my) attention and imagination more than anything.
posted by grouse at 6:22 PM on July 10, 2005


some areas of the upper midwest do have some southern influence ... around s.w. michigan, i've noticed a tendency for some to say "hey" instead of "hi" or "hello" ... and y'all does seem to be spreading a bit

Are you sure that's not at Scandinavian influence? As in, hej?
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:24 PM on July 10, 2005


What it boils down to is the simple fact that the southern dialect gives its speakers the ability to take a commonly accepted word, change just a couple of letters and make it mean something totally different. Take the word "naked" for instance. Simply, it means you have no clothes on. Change it to "nekkid" and it means you have no clothes on and are up to something.

It comes in handy at times, depending on the person you're speaking with. I worked for years on losing my accent, but gained the ability to turn it on and off pretty much at will.
posted by rhythim at 6:30 PM on July 10, 2005


Talkers talking about talking. meta-metalanguage
posted by pwally at 6:30 PM on July 10, 2005


It would have been pedantry if I had intended for it to be instructive.

Isn't that pedagogy, sir?
posted by kalessin at 6:36 PM on July 10, 2005


When I hear y'all in a conversation, I immediately think to myself, Talking to this person is most likely a waste of my time. And the truth is that such people, by and large, would rather not spend time with a Johnson County kid like myself either. In this regard, the linguistic cues on both sides are working exactly as they should.

bingo, if you and all y'all other Johnson County kids want to build walls between us for a single phrase, you go right ahead, but if you want to get offa that there high horse and share a drink with me, I'd be happy to, as long as you were gentleman/gentlewoman enough not to say such a thing to my face.

And before you assume, I was born in southern California, grew up in northern California, took sabbatical with my father (who worked in the UC system for decades) in England a couple of times in there, and now live in Baltimore, MD, after spending some time also in Virginia and in Massachusetts.
posted by kalessin at 6:44 PM on July 10, 2005


You know, I feel like the reason they say "appearances can be deceiving" is because they often aren't. And it is precisely the things we tend to forget (the times they do deceive) that we need reminders of.

As for our reactions to a specific appearance, if there were any sort of algorithmic moral solution it wouldn't be such a huge problem. Recognizing malevolence before it is unequivocably expressed is possible and necessary. Drawing spurious conclusions from prior experience, however, is an unfortunate human tendency which (see above) we do well to have reminders of, and defenses against.
posted by 31d1 at 6:46 PM on July 10, 2005


As for our reactions to a specific appearance, if there were any sort of algorithmic moral solution it wouldn't be such a huge problem.

Well, we'll just leave it up to you to judge books by their cover, then, since you seem to have it all figured out. I suppose my appearance would explain everything about me. My plaid falnnel shirt obviously means that I'm a cross-burner and my fatigue jacket means that I'm a crazed war veteran. Quit pretending that your superficial judgements are any diferent from those of any narrow-minded republican bigot.
posted by jonmc at 6:55 PM on July 10, 2005


I use "ya'll" a lot, having picked it up from the black population (70%!) of New Orleans. Usually, I follow it up with a command for whomever I'm talking to to "have a good one."
posted by brundlefly at 7:09 PM on July 10, 2005


some areas of the upper midwest do have some southern influence ... around s.w. michigan, i've noticed a tendency for some to say "hey" instead of "hi" or "hello" ... and y'all does seem to be spreading a bit

Western Michigan, born and raised. Y'all is, as far as my experience, not really a phrase one hears very often. It is still a "Southernism," and one which might earn you a funny look, especially if you say it with a Midwestern accent.

Hey, on the other hand is common usage and has always seemed to me to predominately operate as a kind of shorthand way of acknowledging another's presence or alerting someone of your own without invoking the tacit expectation of further conversation a "hi" or "hello" might sometimes engender.

A little off topic, but still somewhat related to the conversation: is it primarily a midwestern thing to often relate geographic distance in units of time (ex: How far is Grand Rapids from Lansing? Oh it's about an hour away...)?

posted by Chrischris at 7:17 PM on July 10, 2005


bingo, you're a nice guy and all, but that statement reveals more about your own prejudices than about the people you're writing off.

Other than the part about my being a nice guy (but thanks for the gesture) I have no argument with this. My own prejudices are deliberate, and are directly tied to the people I'm writing off. That's the whole idea.

Hardly any belief is so offensive, illogical, or just plain wrong that there aren't hordes of people who share it.

I have no argument with this either. But it's also true that hardly any belief is so obviously correct that somewhere there aren't a group of intelligent people calling it ridiculous. At any rate, I take issue with the word 'belief,' though I'm sure you meant it. I didn't arbitrarily sign up with some religion that teaches the evils of those who say y'all. My prejudice in this regard is the result of a great deal of personal experience.

any more than George Bush is alone in his assumption that Iraq had something to do with 9/11.

I think you'll find that most people who say y'all would agree that Iraq was responsible for 9/11. I don't have a study to prove it, but if you can find a map indicating the regions of the US where people most often use y'all, I'm betting that the same regions have relatively high approval ratings for the President.

Is it possible for assumptions based on anything other than zero-subtext conversations in a vaccum to be wrong? Sure. (Are there even any zero-subtext conversations? Not many.) But we make assumptions anyway. We each decide (consciously or unconsciously) what we are going to read as indicators of a person's worth (in the context, of course, of what 'worth' means to each of us to begin with).

I have spent enough time around people who say y'all that I feel justified in making certain assumptions whenever I meet another one. Sure, those assumptions could turn out to be wrong. But I don't care. I don't have time to go around being all touchy-feely-sensitive with every person I meet, giving them every possible benefit of the doubt, assuming the best context to every thing they say, until and unless they fall on the floor screaming about the beating of that hideous heart.

And you know, it's not that big of a deal. I'm not talking about deciding who to send to the gas chambers here. If I decide not to date someone, or not to pursue a friendship with someone, or whatever other lack of actions I take that are pretty meaningless in the greater scheme of things because someone says y'all...well, it's pretty meaningless in the greater scheme of things. I, based on my own experiences, choose to make certain judgements in certain situations, just like everybody else. The fact that my particular choices are 'offensive' to some people makes no difference.

on preview:

kalessin: Given what you say about yourself, I have a feeling that, if we were to meet, I would get enough other non-verbal (and perhaps verbal) cues from you that I would know that you aren't an ignorant hayseed.

jonmc: Give me a break. You are proud as punch of your flannel jacket. You are always wearing it, and you often talk about the fact that you're always wearing it. I don't believe that you don't want people to make inferences about you on that basis.
posted by bingo at 7:18 PM on July 10, 2005


I forgot to add thanks to melissa may for her insightful comments. Performing at the Bottleneck?
posted by bingo at 7:33 PM on July 10, 2005


Right. So why are you not dismissing bingo, again?

Well, sweets, because even though I mostly disagree with him I don't see this as a binary, where wholehearted acceptance of a particular language use = good and suspicion of same use = bad. It's a genuinely complex question. Not to bring up my grandma as the alpha and omega here, but one of the many remarkable things about her is that at 94, after a life spent in living in tiny town KS, she sees right through fake country-fried shtick and reacts with deep contempt to it. Her analysis of the President on this point is particularly scathing and funny.

Although I disagree with much of it, I found value in bingo's comment because I'm watching our home state get utterly screwed (economically, educationally, you name it) by people who've stolen our rural language as part of the con (cf Sam Brownback, who sounds like he just got in from a rough round of clearing brush but who is in fact from the urban, eastern portion of the state). So even though I know good and well that rural speech is not equivalent to stupidity, it has become the dialect used to eradicate evolution from our schools and privacy from our bedrooms -- I too get angry and suspicious when I hear it in those contexts. People misusing the language this way are perfectly happy to dismiss dissent by claiming it's a form of prejudice or snobbery. Well, it's not. Damn, just reread "Good Country People" -- the country-talking Bible salesman who'd steal the wooden leg right off you is the perfect emblem for what I'm trying to talk about.

The mistake bingo is making is assuming all people with that accent and usage are thick or pretentious. I'd like to persuade him otherwise, and jeering at him while ignoring his salient points won't get the job done. Anyway, bingo -- if I wasn't clear enough on this point, save your contempt for those who have stolen our native tongue and neatly forked it for their own gain. It's ridiculous to assume that everyone who speaks as such is either malicious or stupid, but I suspect you already know that.

(on preview: Gee, I guess you don't. And it's more your loss than of any of the people for whom you have such easy disrespect.)
posted by melissa may at 7:33 PM on July 10, 2005


I'm baffled by the claims of singular y'all. It really looks to me like it's mostly or completely a non-southerner piece of folklore. Or a misunderstanding. Like the "y'all all" mentioned earlier.

Honestly, I'm not sure if I still use y'all or not. I do think I sometimes say "you all", which someone above thinks is worse. But my speech, like my writing, is a mix of formalism and informalism, and a mix of class signifiers. Which is how I see myself. The Jesse Helms's comment is very revealing of his personality, and in my view it's very unflattering.

Growing up in a small-town that was part farming community and part university, and very near the west Texas border in New Mexico, I knew a good number of authentic rednecks, real country folk, and then also what was the regional norm for people who live in towns.

Many of the walls, interior and exterior, in public spaces (and especially, I recall, in my high school) were stained with chewing tobacco spit. Lots of people wore cowboy hats, boots (with maybe the jeans tucked in sometimes for some reason), hand-tooled leather belt with a large silver buckle. Lots of FFA kids with their distinctive blue velour jackets.

People two-stepped to everything. I mean everything. During the second two years of high school, I spent a lot of time drinking at that university's version of the "Animal House" fraternity (and I'm not exagerating). Lots of parties and a mix of rock and country music. As I mentioned earlier, my favorite band at the time was Van Halen, and I vividly recall watching a bunch of people two-step to one of their songs. Partly I vividly recall that because I'm pretty sure it was the moment I vowed I'd never two-step. One night, years later, I was drunk and a woman talked me into it. But that's the only time I've broken that vow.

I also vowed (to myself) to never wear a cowbot hat or boots. I've maybe worn one of my uncle's hats when I've gone fishing, but that's all. Never worn cowboy boots.

A close friend of mine, son of one of the university faculty, actually subscribed to New Yorker when we were in high school. Like me, there was not the least redneck affectation about him; and, really, he went out of his way to avoid it. But when he found himself in grad school in New York at Cornell's med school he actually bought himself a pair of cowboy boots while visiting home and he wore them in Manhattan. I was very surprised and astonished. I don't think that affectation lasted. He's a Wall Street analyst now, I'm pretty sure he's not wearing those boots.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:42 PM on July 10, 2005


bingo: I think you'll find that most people who say y'all would agree that Iraq was responsible for 9/11.

That is just absolutely asinine.

"I'm not interesting in baiting," my Yankee ass.

On preview: what mm said. Your kvetching about jonmc's call for tolerance relies on your claim of a sanely-enforced irrationalism, and hence loses all credibility once you start acting like a total douchebag.
posted by spiderwire at 7:53 PM on July 10, 2005


bingo: I think you'll find that most people who say y'all would agree that Iraq was responsible for 9/11.

If I walked out my door I would have to walk far and wide to find someone who didn't say "y'all" or who believed Iraq was responsible for 9/11. Carry on reveling in your ignorance.
posted by Carbolic at 8:01 PM on July 10, 2005


actually, i'm not done.

bingo, here's a little exercise that might clear things up: take your last post, strike out everywhere that you wrote "y'all," and replace it with "oy vey," or an Ebonics phrasing of some sort. then re-read it a few times.

making blanket judgments about groups of people based on something that they have little to no control over is stupid. justifying it by drawing coincidental statistical correlations to things you disapprove of is offensive.

and acknowledging that your prejudice is irrational doesn't make it right or acceptable. it just makes you an enlightened bigot rather than a blissfully ignorant one. as someone who's claiming that you're smarter than millions of people based on the pronouns they use or the part of the country they live in, i'd think you'd know better.
posted by spiderwire at 8:23 PM on July 10, 2005


I think if you did a study, you'd find out the use of "y'all" isn't a significant variable or predictor of certain behaviors, especially when you broke the use down by race, as well as education and income. For gosh sakes.

Meanwhile, I don't think Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle or Donald Rumsfeld have ever gone around using "y'all."
posted by raysmj at 8:34 PM on July 10, 2005


Knowing and constantly being aware of the utility, and limits, of generalizations is the mark of the mature intellect.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:36 PM on July 10, 2005


Living around Atlanta for 15 years, on more than one occasion I heard "all y'all" used as an emphatic of the singular "y'all" as in, to a group of boys, "_All_ y'all, quit teasin' that girl, right now, ya hear?"

*grins, doesn't even bother trying spell check*
posted by paulsc at 8:42 PM on July 10, 2005


chrischris/mo nickels ... i don't recall hearing y'all a lot around grand rapids ... but it does pop up around battle creek ... quite a few transplanted southerners there ... a lot of people called it battle crick when i was growing up in the 60s, but that's not as common now ...

i'm pretty sure hey isn't from the scandanavian ... if one goes up to the u p, then there's all sorts of that kind of influence ...

bingo - I think you'll find that most people who say y'all would agree that Iraq was responsible for 9/11.

no, but they'd say that dog don't hunt ... how did this turn into an argument about the war, anyway?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:44 PM on July 10, 2005


"...used as an emphatic of the singular 'y'all'"

You mean plural, right?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:53 PM on July 10, 2005


Quit pretending that your superficial judgements are any diferent from those of any narrow-minded republican bigot.

No problem. I trust them about that far.
posted by 31d1 at 8:58 PM on July 10, 2005


nazis.
posted by IndpMed at 8:59 PM on July 10, 2005


< /godwin alt="nineeleven,iraqwar">
posted by spiderwire at 9:24 PM on July 10, 2005


31d1: That was one of the greatest MeFi comments of all time (IMHO). It deserves an instant replay:

I know my language quite well, and take great pleasure in occasionally combusticating new flavors of linguististification amidst otherwise stunningly erudite book larnin' type hifaluticisms. I trust it eventually seeps through that my glossolalia is in uberrima fides - a playful rearrangement of a baroque architecture - but like, I sorta feel bad for those imprisoned in one controlling mode of dialect. But not near so much I resent those crotchwaffles that would fain standardize mine utterance - arount thee!
posted by spock at 9:26 PM on July 10, 2005


Chrischris, your Western Michigan experience was quite different from mine--I picked up y'all while living in Southwest Michigan between 6th and 12th grade.

Though I did live in one of the less-fancy areas--the rich wankers in places like Portage wouldn't dare let a "y'all" slip their lips. Oh! The horror of being associated with those terrible trailer park people.

bingo, you're quite silly.
posted by schroedinger at 9:48 PM on July 10, 2005


"there's no way "all y'all" is standard"

Where I come from it's not. It'd be "alla y'all" or "all a y'all" (for "all of y'all"; remember, we's be tawkin' di'lec' here).
posted by davy at 10:28 PM on July 10, 2005


I've used both "you all" and "y'all" for years and have no idea where I picked it up. It's not standard up here in Seattle, but I feel way too imprecise when I don't use it. And, oddly, I have noticed more people using it in the last few years. I do think that people have the urge to fill that hole in the language where a plural you should be.
posted by litlnemo at 10:50 PM on July 10, 2005


Regarding StickyCarpet's anecdote, couldn't the Chinese and Japanese have communicated at least a bit by writing it down? They still teach kanji in Japanese schools, right? I'm guessing the basic stuff would still be mutually intelligible. (Of course knowing neither language I could be tawlkin' out mah ayass ag'in.)

By the way, you people who think Pittsburghers talk funny might try listening in Baltimore. To me it sounds like Georgia and New York City thrown together in a blender.
posted by davy at 10:54 PM on July 10, 2005


davy: ...like Georgia and New York City thrown together in a blender.

eeeeewww.
posted by spiderwire at 11:51 PM on July 10, 2005


Metafilter: I resent those crotchwaffles.
posted by spiderwire at 11:53 PM on July 10, 2005


davy: There's a decent chance they could have exchanged directions with a bit of writing (yes, they do *still* teach kanji in Japanese schools, and they will continue to do this as long as the language is filled with homophones and homonyms and homunculi and elves and things like that. And as long as it's a primary component in their writing system).

The situation was still asinine.

on preview, I think I'm going to have to use crotchwaffle on one of the siblings in the near future...
posted by hototogisu at 11:58 PM on July 10, 2005


I grew up in AR, and starting in high school, gradually and slowly, I lost my accent. People now ask me if I'm Canadian. I've shed my southern accent 100%

...EXCEPT for the usage of "y'all". I still use it. I'll always use it. It's a useful word as it's been pointed out on this thread (2nd person plural and all that). It will spread across the country in 50 years' time everyone will use it.

Mark my words. It's just simply useful.
posted by zardoz at 3:21 AM on July 11, 2005


""...used as an emphatic of the singular 'y'all'"

You mean plural, right?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:53 PM EST on July 10 [!]
"


I think the speaker's meaning in the case of the emphatic or imperative "_all_ y'all" is more like "_You_ and _you_ and _you_" because it was generally delivered with a pointing finger gesture, with several air stabs at individuals, to make the command of the imperative an injunction to each individual. I'll concede that an alternative way of putting this in standard American English might be "_Each_ of you.." where "you" is clearly plural, but there is nothing unnatural about the singular "y'all" as used in the first example.

When a speaker means to include all members of a group by "All y'all," I've often seen a hand gesture which is a little circular motion of the index finger accompany the "All y'all" clarifying the speaker's intent to address the group. That such a gesture is even made to clarify the speaker's intent, usually to groups of Yankees, is further evidence that native Southern speakers sometimes address a single person as "y'all" and intuitively recognize it might be confusing to non-southerners,
posted by paulsc at 3:37 AM on July 11, 2005


Hildegarde: don't get me wrong, I was only declaring my ignorance as a non-native English speaker. I've lived in the UK and Ireland enough to be able to tell even relatively smaller regional differences, not just the bigger obvious ones, but I don't have enough exposure to American and Canadian English to be able to do that there. Whenever I heard or spoke to anglophone Canadians I couldn't really tell at first that they were not Americans. I'm sure there must be some differences in the accents, I'm just not aware of them and would be curious to know more about it (that's what my 'is it even possible' meant. It was not a joke!). I guess maybe they would depend on the area and distance, but would they be anywhere as striking as Ireland/England?
posted by funambulist at 4:16 AM on July 11, 2005


come up with something to cover the third person singular of unspecified gender

Farsi has the opposite problem. There is no "he" or "she" in Persian/Farsi, only "oo" which is a third person singular of unspecified gender, and even then it's considered sort of formal and is mostly used in writing. In everyday conversation people use "oon" (which itself is the informal conversational form of "aan") for a third person singular which actually means "that".
posted by Devils Slide at 5:08 AM on July 11, 2005


jonmc writes "I'd like to see 'reckon' come into more general usage, myself cause it's a cool word. I reckon I'll post this now, y'all."

I really like regional English, and one of the things I've been most enamored of since moving to Baltimore is the common use of "nary" in the Black lexicon here. I class it with reckon as a word, but I think it's a bit cooler.

as to y'all: in Western North Carolina where I lived for many years, y'all was not really in general use, the plural contraction was the (very unattractive to my ears) "Y'uns," short for "You ones." I much prefer y'all.
posted by OmieWise at 6:20 AM on July 11, 2005


she sees right through fake country-fried shtick and reacts with deep contempt to it.

Me too. But I'm not sure what that has to do with bingo's indiscriminate loathing. It's like reacting to an anti-Semite by saying "Well, you know, I hate it too when the goyim start saying 'oy vey'..." But I see his further comments have seriously eroded your tolerance for him.

Devils Slide: But you don't need a third-person pronoun in Farsi, because the verb endings do the job instead. If you say Har ruz be edare miraft, you know it's a he or she who went to the office every day, not thee or me. Similarly, Ancient Greek doesn't have a third-person pronoun—it doesn't need one.
posted by languagehat at 6:57 AM on July 11, 2005


There are only two acceptable ways I have ever run across to address 2nd pers plural in English, the southern "y'all" and the Irish "ye."

Also the only native English speakers to whom the word "reckon" appears foreign are yankees.
posted by jcking77 at 8:38 AM on July 11, 2005


as to y'all: in Western North Carolina where I lived for many years, y'all was not really in general use, the plural contraction was the (very unattractive to my ears) "Y'uns," short for "You ones." I much prefer y'all.

Most anything in a Western NC/Eastern TN accent is unattractive.
posted by jcking77 at 8:45 AM on July 11, 2005


Great thread to come back and revisit. It's all well and done now but this thread was just the cat's pajams!

bingo somehow managed to bring Nazis into this discussion in explaining his prejudice. Wow. I have no response to that.

Thanks all! :)

or rather.. y'all :)
posted by cavalier at 9:06 AM on July 11, 2005


zero-subtext conversations

When I dream of heaven, it is fields of redolent flowers, kind women in white, and nothing but zero-subtext conversations.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 9:33 AM on July 11, 2005


spiderwire:

bingo, here's a little exercise that might clear things up: take your last post, strike out everywhere that you wrote "y'all," and replace it with "oy vey," or an Ebonics phrasing of some sort. then re-read it a few times.

I don't see how that proves anything. I'm not talking about people who incorporate Yiddish or Ebonics into their speech. I'm talking about people who use the word y'all. However, since you orthagonally brought it up, people who use "oy vey" frequently don't win any points with me either, and, being Jewish myself, I'm quite familiar with the culture that gives rise to its use.

making blanket judgments about groups of people based on something that they have little to no control over is stupid.

They don't have 'little to no control' over it...actually, the suggestion that they don't have such control is a much more debasing indictment of individuals than anything I've said. But we're not talking about a genetic attribute like hair color. We're talking about a way of speaking that has various connotations. You may disagree with me about exactly what those connotations are, but they still exist.

justifying it by drawing coincidental statistical correlations to things you disapprove of is offensive.

Why are you so sure that the statistical correlation is coincidental?

and acknowledging that your prejudice is irrational doesn't make it right or acceptable.

I don't remember using the word 'irrational' anywhere.

languagehat:

It's like reacting to an anti-Semite by saying "Well, you know, I hate it too when the goyim start saying 'oy vey'..."

I seriously and without irony do not understand this analogy at all.
posted by bingo at 9:34 AM on July 11, 2005


I seriously and without irony do not understand this analogy at all.

Here, let me spell it out for you.

Bigot 1: "People who say 'y'all' are dumb and I don't want anything to do with them."

Bigot 2: "Jews are greedy motherfuckers and I don't want anything to do with them."

Nice (perhaps too nice) person: "Well, I understand where Bigot 1 is coming from, because I can't stand it when people fake being downhome/Southern by saying 'y'all' when it's not native to them."

Me: "But consider the parallel case of Bigot 2 and what would be a corresponding response."

If you need further help, you have only to ask. (The fact that you turn out to be Jewish makes my analogy extra spicy; I hope you enjoy it!)
posted by languagehat at 9:55 AM on July 11, 2005


I picked up using "y'all" in the south. Southern California, that is. Don't ask me.

I had a co-worker in San Antonio that used "y'all guys." Again, don't ask me.

Along with "reckon" I vote for "recollect."
posted by deborah at 10:13 AM on July 11, 2005


I'm Jewish and I use y'all liberally.
posted by grouse at 10:22 AM on July 11, 2005


languagehat: Please continue your hypothetical conversation.

Nice (perhaps too nice) person: "What exactly are you saying the corresponding response would be?"

You: ?
posted by bingo at 10:34 AM on July 11, 2005


You may disagree with me about exactly what those connotations are, but they still exist.

Errr, no. At least not for everyone. For many people, speaking with a regional accent which includes particular key phrases carries absolutely no connotations.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:42 AM on July 11, 2005


Replace "that" with "who." I can't remember if she was a native or not.
posted by deborah at 10:42 AM on July 11, 2005


Not to derail this most spicy of arguments, but I'd like to point out a little, oft overlooked fact about the region from which I come. Often, when speaking of derisory attitudes towards southern accents, people make allusion to the fact that the Boston/Massachusets accent is quite odd as well. Usually this is done to prove that people with southern accents don't deserve to be judged.

I grew up in the middle of four trailer parks in New Hampshire. By anyone's reckoning, I am a deep-bred yankee. And as a yankee, I can tell that you will hear some of the stupidest fucking people you have ever heard in your life in New England. People from other parts of the country tend to think that north of the Conneticut border we're all sweater-wearing pipe-smoking Harvard grads, but I can tell you we have deep waters of ignorance that would make the most stereotypical of inbred southern baptists point and laugh.

And I have to tell you that you've never had to hold in a belly laugh until you've heard somebody say

"Jeezum crowbahs, I hate them ignorant people voting fah evolution!"

That's irony as conveyed by accent at it's best my freind.

As for y'all spreading far and wide, I think I agree with the ebonics theory proffered earlier. After years of living in NY, when I slip into joking about being a white rapper, it comes quite naturally. And I think that before 'fuck y'all' was common currency, the most popular use was "y'all motherfuckers is crazy!" There's probably some truth to the black southern connection there. Almost all the black people I know here have relatives in the south.

I can't find a copy of it online, but a few years ago there was a great piece on NPR from a guy in the south who detested how unreal southern accents in movies were. Even from actors and actresses that came from the south. He ended up interviewing the biggest voice coach in Hollywood who according to him helped Julia Roberts sound "more like the south" despite already being a southerner.

Anyway, peace out y'all!
posted by lumpenprole at 10:44 AM on July 11, 2005


Hal Mumkin writes "...remarkable pluralization of an already plural, 'y'all all'...."

I've heard this used as an emphatic (more so than "all y'all"), to stress that the command to follow (I've only heard it used in imperatives) is to be applied to everyone within hearing:
"Y'all ALL better get inside right now!"

I wouldn't say it's a further pluralization, just an intensifier along the same lines as "I myself..."

General question: "y'all," or "ya'll"? I prefer the former, but I see more of the latter. Though not here.

Also, I'm a fan of "reckon." I often accentuate my drawl when using it, since my coworkers get such a kick out of it. And I'm seriously bummed about bingo figuring out that talking to me would be a waste of time. Most people I get a few minutes out of before they come to that realization.
posted by solotoro at 11:22 AM on July 11, 2005


bingo:
I'm not talking about people who incorporate Yiddish or Ebonics into their speech. I'm talking about people who use the word y'all.
and the quantitative difference is what now?

the point is, again, that you're making a completely hypothetical blanket judgment about the intelligence of millions of people based on their speech patterns. that's called being a bigot.
They don't have 'little to no control' over it
yeah, because people choose where they're born and should really know better growing up than to talk like damn hayseeds. pull the other one.
actually, the suggestion that they don't have such control is a much more debasing indictment of individuals than anything I've said.
"are you suggesting that the iraqis hate freedom!?"
Why are you so sure that the statistical correlation is coincidental?
that's not the point, you twit.

bingo sez:

"I think you'll find that most people who say y'all would agree that Iraq was responsible for 9/11." Therefore we can safely assume that they're ignorant backwoods hicks.

other non-bingo bigot sez:

"I think you'll find that most people who say 'oy vey' are statistically more likely to be bankers and have above-average wealth." Therefore we can safely assume that they're driven by money and greed.

bigot numero tres sez:

"I think you'll find that people who use Ebonics are less likely to complete high school or enter college or hold management positions." Therefore we can safely assume that they're stupid.

do you understand the difference between correlation and causality?
I don't remember using the word 'irrational' anywhere.
bingo sez:

"Is it possible for assumptions based on anything other than zero-subtext conversations in a vaccum to be wrong? ...Sure, those assumptions could turn out to be wrong. But I don't care."

you've tried a number of times now to dodge the question of your bigotry by claiming that, while it doesn't make any goddamn sense, you're aware of that, so it's therefore ok to continue being that way.
posted by spiderwire at 11:29 AM on July 11, 2005


As for the hip-hop / rap connection to the word y'all, I think it was popularized by early hip-hop originator Kid Creole, whose enthusiastic shouts of "Yes y'all" (later expanded to "Yes yes y'all) were a call and response staple of the club scene at the time. The name's a giveaway, but in case you're unsure, Kid Creole had some pretty serious Southern roots.
posted by rush at 11:44 AM on July 11, 2005


I've noticed folks (myself included) using Howdy as a greeting much more often here in the Yankified Pac NW.
posted by aaronscool at 11:49 AM on July 11, 2005


For many people, speaking with a regional accent which includes particular key phrases carries absolutely no connotations.

Indeed. In a British context at least, I cannot picture anyone but the vilest snobs and aristocrats being so unashamedly stuck up about accents or correct forms of colloquial English. You don't even hear posh accents on the BBC anymore. The regional accents can be so rich, it'd be a shame to hide them.

Have some fun and learn Mancunian in ten minutes. Madferit!
posted by funambulist at 11:56 AM on July 11, 2005


You: ?

*sighs deeply, raises eyes heavenward*

Me (as you could see by scrolling up and looking at what you yourself quoted, but I realize that's a lot of work):
It's like reacting to an anti-Semite by saying "Well, you know, I hate it too when the goyim start saying 'oy vey'..."

bingo:y'all-user:stupid person :: anti-Semite:Jew:greedy motherfucker

Just as bingo hates all y'all-users, regardless of whether or not they're faking it, so the anti-Semite hates all Jews or fake-Jews, regardless. If you still can't get your mind around the analogy, forget it—if I have to make it any simpler, my brain will melt.

solotaro: It's y'all.
posted by languagehat at 12:22 PM on July 11, 2005


i'm curious as to whether bingo can identify any regional speech patterns that would identify someone as being superior to himself, or does he just stick to those that allow him to assume his own superiority...
posted by troybob at 12:23 PM on July 11, 2005


...'does he stick to commenting on those', i should say...
posted by troybob at 12:28 PM on July 11, 2005


I asked my native North Carolinian husband whether all y'all was ever acceptable. His reply: It is not only acceptable it is necessary for the phrase, "Fuck all y'all, Motherfuckers."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:30 PM on July 11, 2005


However, it at least serves as an easy litmus test when first meeting someone; if their vocabulary includes "y'all," then you can easily and immediately adjust your opinion of their IQ downward.

Hi. You don't know anything about linguistics.

I also cannot tell non-French speaking Canadians from Americans. (Is it even possible?)

Quite possible, especially for some of the stronger accents. Words like "about" and "sorry" tend to be pronounced in a distinctly Canadian manner, and I know some Canadians who say I'm done X where I would say I've done X or I'm done with X. I think this may have its roots in the fact that you can't tell whether someone means is or has when they say He's done his work, so the first-person equivalent becomes I'm done my work instead of I've done my work. Note that this is not incorrect. It's a regional variation.

As far as I can tell, no one naturally uses y'all to address a singular person. Saying y'all to a waitress in a café is just addressing a group by means of one member. This seems to be about exactly where you would use ihr in German.
posted by oaf at 1:01 PM on July 11, 2005


SLoG:

That is my FAVORITE use of y'all. I think that phrase is as perfect as any can be.

I'm from a suburb of Detroit (although I can't point to my hand and tell you where it is) and never heard anyone say y'all ever, until I moved to North Carolina.

Within a few weeks of living there - I started a retail job. On the second day, I approached a group of customers and said - "how can I help y'all?"

I surprised myself.
posted by pinky at 1:33 PM on July 11, 2005


solotoro: I've heard this used as an emphatic (more so than "all y'all"), to stress that the command to follow (I've only heard it used in imperatives) is to be applied to everyone within hearing:
"Y'all ALL better get inside right now!"


This would be a fair point if the lecturer had been using it in that way; however, he clearly meant "all y'all" but had no idea what he was talking about, silly Limey. Although I did say I was only 98.7% (or so) sure the form didn't exist, thus leaving room for the possibility of such information as this. Thanks.

As GI Joe says, now I know....
posted by Hal Mumkin at 2:23 PM on July 11, 2005


Devils Slide: But you don't need a third-person pronoun in Farsi, because the verb endings do the job instead. If you say Har ruz be edare miraft, you know it's a he or she who went to the office every day, not thee or me.

That's very true languagehat, but I still wish we had "he" and "she".

Rasti, bezaar behet tabrik begam keh zaban moshkeli mesleh Farsi ro enghadr khoob yaad gerefti.
posted by Devils Slide at 2:40 PM on July 11, 2005


Anglophone Canadian accents versus Anglophone American accents:
  1. Canadian accents are pretty much always rhotic (i.e. they pronounce their R's all the time).
  2. Canadians pronounce their (medial and final) T's, while many Americans replace them with a glottal stop (the unwritten consonant separating the syllables in "uh-oh"); for example, I (an American who grew up about 30 kilometers away from the Canadian border) pronounce kitten as "ki'in", or in IPA, /ˈkʔin/.
  3. Canadians pronounce "schedule" with an inital "sh" sound, while Americans pronounce it with an initial "sk" sound. There are other Commonwealth English-like pronunciations of certain words, but I can't remember them right now.
  4. When pronouncing words of foreign (e.g. Spanish or Japanese) origin, Canadians will often pronounce them using the rules normally applied to native English orthography. Thus, "Nissan" in Canada rhymes with "miss Ann", while in the U.S. it rhymes with "Knees on". (Both versions stress the first syllable.)
Canadian English is heavily influenced by an influx of Scottish immigrants in the 19th century, and I'm guessing the continual British institutional influences didn't hurt, either. Please be advised, IANA linguist.
posted by skoosh at 2:50 PM on July 11, 2005


i'm curious as to whether bingo can identify any regional speech patterns that would identify someone as being superior to himself, or does he just stick to those that allow him to assume his own superiority...

british accents. i'm not sure if it's reverse-bigotry or whatever, but sometimes i just can't help myself.

Hi. You don't know anything about linguistics.

troybob, that should have been our first and only response. /claps
posted by spiderwire at 2:54 PM on July 11, 2005


I'm happy the IPA characters came through alright, but in my zeal to protect, I screwed up the transcription. (I am definitely not a linguist.) It should be more like /ˈkɪʔɪn/ (I think).
posted by skoosh at 2:59 PM on July 11, 2005


While I'm on the subject (which is admittedly yet another derailment from the FPP...sorry spock), my other pet peeve about Farsi is that we don't have a Persian word for "thanks". Persians use "merci", which is obviously borrowed from French, and "moteshakeram" which is Arabic. There is the archaic and very formal "sepas bar to" which means something along the lines of "thanks be upon you". But we need a single word that means "thanks", and sepas is never used by itself in that context...maybe it "should gain acceptance in regular" Farsi.

And with that, I believe I've used up my quotation mark quota for the day.
posted by Devils Slide at 3:02 PM on July 11, 2005


Now, after reading languagehat and DevilSlide's dialogue, I'm wondering if there's any way to grammatically indicate a subject's gender in Farsi without actually spelling it out semantically. I can't understand the Farsi bits, but it does seem to resemble Hindi-Urdu, which also (to my knowledge) doesn't have gender-specific pronouns or any gender distinctions in verb declension.

On preview: unless "moteshakeram" is a recent borrowing (which I doubt), I would've expected it to have already become accepted as "real" Farsi, as opposed to a "foreign" word. Sort of like how no Anglophone thinks of "alcohol" or "pundit" as "Arabic" or "Hindi" words, because being such common, everyday, culturally neutral words, they've been completely assimilated into the language. Is it not that way for "moteshakeram" in Farsi-speaking communities? (Perhaps - slyly getting back on-topic - it's much like "y'all" and how it is still currently considered a "Southern" word, though its use has spread far beyond the South.)
posted by skoosh at 3:19 PM on July 11, 2005


When in college, we had to do geology field camp in Oklahoma. On the way there, we camped in the state parks. We were trying out the new words we, as Minnesotans, had been hearing- Liable to... Reckon... waiting ON someone instead of FOR them. Y'all was the easiest to try on the locals, but I remember particularly some little kids from Kansas, one of whom when we asked "Where y'all from?, backed up, frowned, and said "My daddy says y'all shouldn't say y'all, cause that's all Okie talk." It seems there IS some kind of cultural Mason-Dixon line there linguistically speaking....
posted by primdehuit at 3:38 PM on July 11, 2005


i always thought 'waiting on line' sounded kind of funny...i always give it kind of a mob connotation, as i think i first heard the phrase spoken by talia shire in 'the godfather'...or i figured 'waiting on line' meant that one was waiting to meet someone important...but i've since heard it to mean simply 'waiting in line'
posted by troybob at 4:14 PM on July 11, 2005


...and now, spoken, it can be easily confused with 'waiting online' as if for some chat session or streaming event...
posted by troybob at 4:16 PM on July 11, 2005


I'm wondering if there's any way to grammatically indicate a subject's gender in Farsi without actually spelling it out semantically.

As far as I know, there isn't. You'd have to use the person's name or say "the man...woman...boy etc."

unless "moteshakeram" is a recent borrowing (which I doubt), I would've expected it to have already become accepted as "real" Farsi, as opposed to a "foreign" word.

I suppose it's pretty deeply ingrained, yes. There are quite a few Arabic words that have made it into Farsi, but there's usually an authentic Farsi word that can be used in its place. For instance, there are two words that mean airplane - "havapayma" and "tayareh". The former is of Farsi origin (hava=air peyma=traveller), and the latter is Arabic.

You're right that some Arabic words have become so immersed into our language that some people are not sure whether they're truly Persian or Arabic. And there's an awful lot of French and other European words that have been co-opted by Iranians. These are usually modern things/objects/concepts that have no Farsi counterpart, so rather than inventing a new word we just go with television, radio, motor, machine (which means car...don't ask me why we didn't go with voiture) etc., although we use the French pronunciation for those words.

Then there's the nationalistic aspect of trying to rid ourselves of Arabic words, although it may seem futile, xenophobic, or racist to do so. Because some Persians associate the decline of our country with the Arab invasion and/or Islam (it's always easier to blame others than take a long hard look at yourself), they consciously reject Arabic words whenever possible. But my motivation is different -- I just think we should have our own word for "thanks", as that's one of the first things a non-Farsi speaker asks:"How do you say thanks?", and it's always awkward to say:"Well...merci or moteshakeram".
posted by Devils Slide at 4:17 PM on July 11, 2005


inventing invent
posted by Devils Slide at 4:20 PM on July 11, 2005


non-Farsi speaker Non speaker, damn it! I've been up a long time
posted by Devils Slide at 4:26 PM on July 11, 2005


oaf and skoosh: thanks! that is very interesting, especially the thing about 'I'm done x', I'd have never noticed that myself, and the differences in the R's and T's pronunciation. I'd noticed how Americans tend to pronounce those differently from Brits, but not how Canadians do it differently from Americans.

Canadians pronounce "schedule" with an inital "sh" sound, while Americans pronounce it with an initial "sk" sound.

Ah, when I learnt that word, I always had trouble remembering which one was the US pronunciation and which was the British one. So basically the Canadian is the same as the British? Interesting.

I made an effort to try and and spot anything that stood out in these clips I found from this yummy page of links on English accents and I just can't. There's two girls reading the very same passage, one is from Ontario and the other from California. I can hear some differences but I can't put my finger on them and I really wouldn't be able to know which is which if I didn't know that before listening. I know it's my lack of familiarity, of course. But on the other hand, the differences between south and north inside the US are a lot more marked. (well I can definitely tell those apart).

(Now that I found those pages I'm so going to waste hours on them...)
posted by funambulist at 4:31 PM on July 11, 2005


Come in da chiken!

I never ever want to eat any food these people have prepared.

the distinction in Spanish between "allí" and "allá"—the former means "there", but the latter means "way over there." They're both distinction that don't exist in Standard American English as a single word

"Yonder" used to be the English way of saying "way over there." I remember being about six and being very confused when my grandmother told me to "go over yonder."
posted by kindall at 4:51 PM on July 11, 2005


languagehat:

It's like reacting to an anti-Semite by saying "Well, you know, I hate it too when the goyim start saying 'oy vey'..."

So I think you're saying that THAT is somehow parallel to this:

"...I can't stand it when people fake being downhome/Southern by saying 'y'all' when it's not native to them."

Well....okay, there's a similarity. I'm not sure what it's supposed to prove. Personally, as noted above, I find the phrase 'oy vey' a bit grating, even when spoken by other Jews. But sure, hearing it from someone who isn't Jewish (as I often did when living in L.A. and working in Hollywood, where there is a bizarre cult of fascination with Judaism) is ten times more grating, and it comes off as affected as hell. Sure, there are some gentiles who were raised among perpetually kvetching Jews who no doubt say things like 'oy vey' as a part of their natural expression. But they are far and away the exceptions, and I think it sounds pretty silly coming from them too.

You seem to have bought into a bizarre (but common) Godwinesque fallacy; the idea that somehow positing Jews as an analog to the put-upon in any situation is somehow going to prove something. I would think this was obvious, but apparently some people need to hear it: it doesn't work that way. You want to tell me that the religion I was raised with indicates that I'm a greedy motherfucker? Go ahead, it won't make you Hitler. Sure, you'd be wrong, but the situation isn't that simple. Usury isn't a sin in Judaism. American Jewish culture is infused with a will to success, but that has more to do with our great grandparents coming off the boats at Ellis Island than it has to do with anything written in the Torah. A lot of gentiles (especially those who don't know any Jews, as is often true in rural American areas) don't know much about Judaism, and that naturally invites mystery and suspicion. And these are the things that I would want to talk to you about if you told me that you assumed all Jews were greedy motherfuckers. And my first question would be: well, is that really an indicative of your experience? Because maybe it is. A lot of us certainly are greedy motherfuckers. And for me to respond to your charge simply by saying I was 'offended' and that you were a 'bigot' would be the weakest, lamest, most pussy-footed, half-convinced, pseudo-intellectual thing I could possibly do.

And as for this:


Just as bingo hates all y'all-users, regardless of whether or not they're faking it, so the anti-Semite hates all Jews or fake-Jews, regardless.


I don't think I used the word 'hate.' And finding the use of 'oy vey' distasteful is not the same thing as anti-Semitism, which does not in itself necessarily involve hate.

spiderwire:

and the quantitative difference is what now?

Um...I'm not saying that there is a quantitative difference. Are you sure that you know what 'quantitative' means?

yeah, because people choose where they're born and should really know better growing up than to talk like damn hayseeds. pull the other one.

I think (or hope) you know that saying people have control over which words come out of their mouths is not the same as saying that they can choose where they're born. You can't choose your native tongue or dialect, but then, I never suggested that people should stop saying y'all just to make me happy. It's what the word indicates that I have a problem with; linguistically, it's fine, although personally, I think that if American English were to adopt a second-person plural, it should be the Irish "youse."


"are you suggesting that the iraqis hate freedom!?"


I'm certainly guessing that they hate hearing the word spoken in English.

...after I said:

Why are you so sure that the statistical correlation is coincidental?

You responded:

that's not the point, you twit.

This is a strange bit of rhetoric. Obviously, it wasn't your point, but it certainly is mine.

And finally:

you've tried a number of times now to dodge the question of your bigotry by claiming that, while it doesn't make any goddamn sense, you're aware of that, so it's therefore ok to continue being that way.

I didn't say anything remotely related to that. And by the way, let's examine the dictionary.com definition of 'bigot':

" One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ."

Now, I wouldn't say that I'm particularly partial to any group that I'm a member of, and while I'm not exactly a social butterfly, I've got plenty of friends who would disagree with me on this general topic, and on countless others. The world is a big, complicated, interesting place, and so far I think it's fair to say that I've explored it a lot more and with a more open mind than most of the people I grew up with. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to sacrifice my right to make judgements on the basis of my own experience. And I wouldn't expect anyone else to, either.
posted by bingo at 5:13 PM on July 11, 2005


I never ever want to eat any food these people have prepared.

Your loss. Nonna's Risotto Milanese and gnocchi are worth risking death for.
posted by jonmc at 5:38 PM on July 11, 2005


I'm from Kansas, and in Kansas, if you hear someone say 'y'all' the chances are almost 100% that you are talking to someone who is:

a) minimally educated
b) as dumb as a fucking stump to begin with
c) a religious right-wing nut job


no matter how many qualifiers you've thrown on it over the course of this thread, this statement is not an indication of personal judgment based on personal experience. it attempts to be a statement of fact, with an attempt at legitimacy given its use of a percentile estimate and the line-by-line enumeration (eletteration?) of characteristics.

criticism of your point of view is not an expectation that you sacrifice your right to make judgments using whatever criteria you desire. you put the comment out there; don't fault people for responding to it.
posted by troybob at 5:40 PM on July 11, 2005


"As far as I can tell, no one naturally uses y'all to address a singular person. Saying y'all to a waitress in a café is just addressing a group by means of one member. This seems to be about exactly where you would use ihr in German."
posted by oaf at 4:01 PM EST on July 11 [!]


oaf, I'll relate this to the waitress at the Huddle House just off I-16 exit 6 south of Macon, GA, the next time I pay my bill there, get my change, and she says to me as I turn toward the door to leave "Y'all come back now, hear?" She's always seemed pretty natural about it before, but maybe she's been pulling my chain all these years...
posted by paulsc at 10:21 PM on July 11, 2005


paulsc, that's an easily explained exception: it's become a fixed phrase, because it's usually used in addressing a group of people.

troybob, it's become clear there's no talking to bingo: he's bigoted and proud of it. (And if he's correct that "I think it's fair to say that I've explored [the world] a lot more and with a more open mind than most of the people I grew up with," I sure don't want to meet the people he grew up with.)
posted by languagehat at 5:58 AM on July 12, 2005


languagehat: I double-dog-dare you to put one tenth the effort into reading and responding to my comments that I did to yours. It must be very convenient for you to write me off as 'bigoted and proud of it' without any more than a vague justification that I just responded to fairly respectfully, and in great detail.

troybob: I'm sorry. If I said anything in this thread that may have come across as a qualifier against my original comment, then I retract whatever it was.
posted by bingo at 7:21 AM on July 12, 2005


"Yonder" used to be the English way of saying "way over there."
My grandparents actually had an extra farm place when I was growing up called, no lie, "Over Yonder". It was only about a mile away from their main place. All us folks in the family still call it over yonder when we refer to it.
posted by primdehuit at 8:22 PM on July 12, 2005


bingo: Ignorant hayseed? Huh. Well, as I said before, you feel like getting off your high horse and I might drink with you, or joke with you or hang out with you, but as it stands, I've seen quite enough of your attitude here to determine that y'all or not, I'm not really interested in doing much with you, here or over drinks.

You've got to get over it before I really give a crap about sharing a drink or a meal with you. And by "it", I mean everything. The fact that you're hung up about language, metalanguage and paralanguage and that you'll use any of those things to make judgements about a person's intelligence (cultural or otherwise) really doesn't speak well of your overall ability to get over anything, I'm sorry to say.
posted by kalessin at 8:23 PM on July 12, 2005


kalessin: The hypothetical drink was your idea. No need to fret; I didn't take it seriously, nor did I mean to imply that it was something I aspired to.
posted by bingo at 1:27 PM on July 13, 2005


funambulist: That is an awesome link. I have to admit that the Ontario and California samples you mention are similar in a lot of ways (surprisingly so; the Californian would not sound out of place in Buffalo, which is right across the border from the most densely populated region of Ontario). After listening several times (and to a couple of the Nova Scotia samples), I think there are two points that definitely distinguish the first two:
  • rounded [o] and [u] - Canadians more consistently make more of a circle with their lips when pronouncing these two vowels. The phenomenon is more pronounced in the Maritime Provinces, such as Nova Scotia, and has been (inaccurately) stereotyped in the U.S. as a pronunciation of "about" as "a boot". In her ad lib interview, the woman in the Ontario sample actually says "about" with (what sounds to my ill-trained ear like) a rounded /?/ as the beginning of the diphthong; most (though not all) Americans would start the diphthong with an unrounded /a/, then finish with a rounded /u/.
  • Canadians tend to have a "darker" [l] and [r], articulated just slightly further back from the teeth than an American [l] or [r] might be. (Another holdover from Scots English.) The California woman also uses the "dark" [r], but (and this was a total surprise to me) she nearly elides the final [l]; in words like "people" and "miracle", that [l] almost disappears. I have no idea if that's typical of Californians or not (I've never been to a city in California, only the desert once, among non-natives), but it certainly isn't expected in a non-Southern, non-AAVE American accent.
Also, I think the Ontario woman would have pronounced the last syllable of "Capistrano" with a short [a] (to rhyme with "fat"), but since she didn't say it, that's hypothetical.

It's a little difficult to pinpoint definite, all-the-time differences between Canadian and American accents. There are many Canadian accents, and there are many American accents, and there's been influences back and forth across the border. But it's not always cut-and-dry. The second Ontario woman sounds pretty much like an American - at least when she's reading the story. During the interview, though, her Canadian-ness immediately becomes more apparent (note her pronunciation of "house").

I notice too that I've answered this question as, "How do you tell if someone's Canadian?" It would be interesting to see how someone would answer it in the other direction, i.e. how a Canadian could tell that someone's American.
posted by skoosh at 8:27 PM on July 15, 2005


So it's not always cut-and-dry.
posted by skoosh at 8:56 PM on July 15, 2005


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